If I mention 1 Corinthians 13, also known as "The Love Chapter," what's the first thing that comes to mind? Probably a wedding, right? After all, this passage of Scripture is a favorite for wedding sermons.
While it's certainly appropriate to use a passage speaking about God's love in a wedding sermon, did you know that's not even close to the context in which Paul originally wrote 1 Corinthians 13? The Love Chapter comes smack dab in the middle of a conversation about spiritual gifts in their role in the life of the church! In fact, every time that Paul writes at length about spiritual gifts (see Romans 12 and Ephesians 4), he immediately writes about love.
So what's the connection between love and spiritual gifts? I think Paul was trying to emphasize that, though we serve through the power of God's gifts, we must also serve through the motivation of God's love, or it's all for nothing.
In essence, love safeguards our service.
Love protects us against burnout
("Love is patient, love is kind")
Love keeps our service from becoming selfishness
("Love is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant")
Love prevents bitterness
("Love is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered")
Love maintains purity
("Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth")
Love lets us serve faithfully and with endurance
("Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things")
Paul tells us at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 that anything we do, if not done in love, is just a clanging gong -- a pretty annoying sound, I assure you. We can use God's gifts, even act in God's name, but if we are not serving under God's love, then nothing of value to God will be accomplished.