“I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt – but if I have no love, this does me no good”.
1 Cor 13:3 GNB
Incidents of sacrifice are dramatic. In the decade after the second World War a group of four American missionaries felt called to fly into an unknown area of Ecuador to take the gospel to a tribe that was completely cut off from the rest of the world. They never came out alive. Their story created a wave of sympathy and admiration around the Christian world. They had made “the supreme sacrifice”. It has happened many times down the centuries.
Paul could not have known just how many believers and other servants of Christ would give their lives in sacrifice in the three centuries that followed his pioneering missionary work. Persecutions rose and died away every few years until the Emperor Constantine declared freedom from persecution for Christians in 312 A.D. Even such an act as voluntarily giving one’s body to be burnt, however, was no substitute for love in Paul’s reckoning. Love had to be the supreme and distinguishing characteristic for the Christian. Even something as dramatic and spectacular as martyrdom was not as important as love. It is hardly likely that anyone would voluntarily allow themselves to be burnt. But it is possible that Paul was thinking of the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3.
Love is all important. Simple acts of love, performed without the blare of trumpets or the accompaniment of publicity are the sign that self-concern has been overcome by concern for others. They carry a message that echoes Christ’s own compassion. They are more important than climbing to high positions or gaining widespread admiration.
Lord, help me to express love in little things.