I was recently listening again to one of my favorite historical speeches, the one made by Winston Churchill following the rescue of the British Army from Dunkirk in 1940. Here’s the most famous part of that speech: “…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
When speakers really want to drive a point home, they use repetition, just like Churchill did. This occurs several times in the Bible, and one of my favorites is 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter.” In it, Paul says the same thing, a few different ways. Listen to this: “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” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV).
Paul tells us here that if you don’t have love, nothing you say will matter. A golden tongue can certainly get you far in life in some respects, but if it’s not speaking with love, that golden tongue is just noise to God. Paul goes on: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV).
Paul repeats himself here, but changes the verb. Now, he’s saying that if you don’t have love, nothing you know will matter. He even goes as far as to cover prophecy! You could literally be able to predict the future – but without love, it wouldn’t matter. “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” (1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV).
Finally, he takes it straight to the heart, telling his audience that without love, nothing you give will matter – not even your own body.
All that repetition communicates Paul’s point very effectively: that the most important thing in the world to God, is love. Without it, nothing that we say, know, or do, will matter in the long run. And while that can seem like a tall order, we have only to look to our Lord Jesus for inspiration. By embodying God’s love in every thought, word, and deed, he was able to live a life that truly mattered: one that ensured our eternal salvation!
I’m Greg Williams, speaking of LIFE.