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.
This brief chapter presents the priority of love in understanding spirituality. No gifts benefit the users if they are not motivated by love (1-3). Love is not shown in the use of a gift but in the patience, kindness, selflessness, and forgiveness which infuse a person’s character (4-7). Spiritual maturity is revealed by love, and maturity comes through loving. This, rather than the childish approach of the Corinthians and their focus on gifts, is the “more excellent way” (12:13) to gauge and to grow in true spirituality.
[I see that Love, described in this chapter, is a spiritual gift – the greatest among all the gifts. Whether we know Christ or not, we all desire such love. But to desire it is one thing, to practice it is another.]