Why the Only Thing That Counts Is the Thing We Probably Aren’t Counting


1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NIV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):

We’ve heard it read a hundred times at weddings, which causes us (at least me) to associate this text with the warm, fuzzy, sentimental feelings that always ooze out of weddings. Said another way, this text—clearly one of the hardest texts in all of Scripture—comes off as soft and fluffy because of the context in which we have most often heard it.

Love, in the cultural, romance novel, bachelorette context is something completely different than love as defined in the bible. It’s fascinating to consider how the word “love” has become associated with the word “passion,” particularly as relates to the way love gets commonly portrayed in the world (i.e. a passionate love affair). Passion becomes primarily associated with sexual expression. Here’s the irony. The first definition for passion in many dictionaries is preceded by the word “archaic meaning” and followed by the word, “suffering.” Passion means suffering. Passion actually means suffering love. Why else do we describe the crucifixion as the “Passion of Christ?”

Love is not soft. Love is the most difficult thing in the world. Consider that the chapter uses the word “not” ten times, the word “always” four times, the word “no” once and the word “love” eight times. These are the terms of definitive absolutes.

1 Corinthians 13 must become for us, an absolute manifesto. Somehow we need to keep this text before us every day. This is not pie in the sky “HallMark” card idealism. 1 Corinthians 13 is profound realism. As an exercise of faith and bold self examination, I want to ask you to insert your name in every blank below. Read it aloud inserting your name in each blank.

____ is patient, love is kind. ____ does not envy, ____ does not boast, ____ is not proud. 5 ____ does not dishonor others, ____ is not self-seeking, ____ is not easily angered, ____ keeps no record of wrongs. 6 ____ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 ____ always protects, ____ always trusts, ____ always hopes, ____ always perseveres.

O.K., if you skipped the challenge exercise, go back and do it now! Say you name in every single blank and do it aloud.

“This is impossible!” you say. And you are right, if it is solely up to you and me to become these things. Here’s the big secret. Go back, now, and insert the word “Jesus” in all the blanks. If these things are true about Jesus, and we know they are, and Jesus is in you, what does that say about you?

I’m going to start doing this little exercise of inserting my name in the blanks and reading this text aloud every day. We have a way of following our words. I see it as akin to prophesying over ourselves with the very Word of God. Will you join me in this. Let’s just commit to the next seven days.

Why is this so urgently important? Because if we get everything else right and miss this we have missed everything, but if we miss everything else and get this, we still have everything. Paul said to the Galatians, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 5:6b


Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Thank you for challenging me with what is impossible for me. In this way, you lead me deeper into you, for whom nothing is impossible. You are my love Jesus. Come Holy Spirit and so fill me with the love of Jesus that in encountering me they encounter him. Train me in this way of supernatural love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. Is 1 Corinthians 13 an active possibility in your life or have you let it slip into unreachable idealism?
  2. Was it challenging to hear yourself reading your name in the exercise above? What was that like for you?
  3. What will it take, or how can we get this vision of biblical love front and center in our every day vision?