The church at Corinth struggled with elitism. The rich ate and drank lavishly at their “love” feasts while the poor went hungry. They quarreled over who had the better baptism. And those who had sign gifts (speaking in tongues, prophecy) felt themselves to be a higher caliber of Christian. Paul has already addressed the first two in his letter, and here’s what he writes to them as a remedy for the third:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Even if I could speak in other languages miraculously or even speak as angels do, if I don’t have love, I’m just making a bunch of useless noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and understood all things and had perfect knowledge and matchless faith, without love, I’m not worth anything. Even if I sacrificed all things, even my own life, if I don’t have love, there’s no value in it.
The sure-fire way to be a hypocrite is to go through Christian motions and study Christian doctrine and even speak Christian truths but have not love. You can memorize confessions. Go to church every Sunday. Help people move. Attend prayer meetings. Sing in the choir. Lead a Bible study. Write a systematic theology. But if you don’t have love, you’ve only attained the level of hypocrite.
Love is where it starts. Love for Christ and love for people is what should be the driving force of our thoughts, words, and actions. All these things that we listed above are good and godly, if they are motivated by love. And they’re good and godly only if they’re motivated by love. Otherwise, they’re as filthy rags.
May God help us to love Him more and thus love others more and thus do more for His kingdom.