What is the greatest attribute in the Christian life? Jesus summarized all of God's 613 laws into 2 commands. The first is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor. That is the most important thing. In fact, if I speak skillfully and marvelously yet do it without love, I am just an irritating noise. If I do good deeds, feed the poor, serve others, yet do it for some other motivation other than genuine love, it amounts to nothing. Without love, all of the deeds, ministry, and tasks I do amount to nothing whatsoever.
So what is love? Here are just a few characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13.
1) To be loving is to be patient. I need to be patient with genuine selfless motivation.
2) To be loving is to be kind. I need to avoid speaking with unkind words, tone of voice, or do something unkind. I need to act kindly and do deeds of kindness.
3) To be loving is not to be jealous of others. If someone is better than I am at something, then this is great because it glorifies God. This means that being loving is not to be wrapped up in myself.
4) To be loving is to avoid bragging or being arrogant. It is not all about me. I need to be humble because in the sight of God we are all in the same boat and because my Jesus demonstrated humility.
5) To be loving is to avoid acting unbecomingly. This means avoiding acting ugly toward others. It means letting the beauty of God come through in my attitude and the way I conduct myself.
6) To be loving is to avoid seeking my own, but to consider others before myself. It means acting selflessly in all things.
7) To be loving means avoiding being provoked. It means having a forgiving heart.
8) Being loving means not taking into account a wrong suffered. It means letting things go. It means gracious forgiveness rather than harboring a grudge.
9) Being loving means rejoicing with the truth and not with unrighteousness.
10) Being loving means bearing all things, which is patient perseverance.
11) Being loving means believing all things. I need to think the best of my brethren and not the worst of them.
12) Being loving means enduring all things.
13) Love never fails. If there is failure, perhaps a lack of love might be a root cause. It sure was in the Corinthian church.
This is perhaps one of the most important passages on the Christian life in scripture. Without love, everything I do is pointless, useless, and even repugnant to God.
Self evaluation: Take a look at the characteristics of love in this chapter and reflect on each one of them individually. Ask yourself questions like, "Do I act unbecomingly? Why do I do this? What do I need to do to overcome it?" This is an important exercise, because if I act unbecomingly, then I am not acting out of love and my deeds, service, leadership, etc. are all nothing and nullified. If I hold a grudge and keep account of wrongs suffered, if I am unkind, arrogant, jealous, etc., then I do not have love and nothing I do means anything to God.
Truly, the most important thing is love.