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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Sunday, February 14

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
—1 Corinthians 13:1

Saint Valentine's Day

This elegant, beautifully crafted and memorable praise of love is often read at weddings to emphasize to the bride and groom, as well as to the congregation, the importance of unselfish love. The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians may be the most familiar praise of love ever written, but we miss a great deal of its impact if we confine it to romance, or even family love.

Paul wasn’t writing about romantic love at all. This letter was to a congregation embroiled in a serious conflict over whose spiritual gifts were most important. What he wrote was not exactly a Valentine! 

"You may have all sorts of gifts and talents and skills," he says, "but get over yourselves! No matter how talented you are, no matter how holy you seem to be, no matter how virtuously you behave, without love, you have nothing and are nothing."

If that sounds harsh, notice that Paul writes in the first person: "If I speak like an angel.... If I have prophetic powers, all knowledge, faith so as to move mountains.... If I give away all my possessions but do not have love, I am nothing." He knows this truth from personal experience: no matter how much we achieve or accumulate or even give away, if we don’t have love, we don’t have anything.

A wise commentator writes: "The love celebrated here is not one that originates in one individual and reaches out to another. It comes from God, claims us and through us reaches out to others." In other words, we are not the source of love; God is. And that makes all things possible!

Give us courage, gracious God, to accept your blessings—in whatever form they appear. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.