1 Corinthians 13: 1-12
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. 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. 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.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 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. 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.
Most people know this Bible passage from hearing it read at weddings. As lovely as that is, Paul is actually writing in the context of describing how spiritual gifts are exercised in the church. Don't forget that the original letter didn't have chapters and verses like our modern translations. Paul has just been describing how, as each member of the church uses their diverse gifts, the Body is complete. We need one another because we are different, just as an eye needs a hand and a leg needs a foot. We are interdependent, there are no inferior or superfluous parts.
However, just in case the Corinthian church haven't fully grasped what Paul is saying, he moves on to describe the complete fallacy of thinking that displaying spiritual gifts demonstrates our maturity in Christ. To utter great prophesies devoid of love for others just makes you an annoying noise. Speaking in tongues all day without having compassion for your community is simply an irritating sound. Charismatic gifting without Christlike character contributes nothing and impresses nobody. In fact, Paul even uses the phrase, "I am nothing", because operating in spiritual gifts and having insight into mysteries can make us think, "Aren't I quite something?"
Expressed through someone who has genuine love for others, spiritual gifts are incredible. They edify, encourage, exhort and equip. So, let's not shy away from pursuing gifts. Just make sure they are expressed and exercised with an attitude of humble service and a heart overflowing with loving kindness.