Paul, a pastor, an elder and an apostle, had started a church in Corinth. He cared deeply for the people in his congregation and had a special message for them: “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 13:3).
Paul often taught on doctrinal matters but at this time he was speaking directly to “family” — the people who came together locally. He was appealing to them to become healthy believers, and he wanted to assure them that he loved them beyond reason — as they should love one another. The world is full of division and rejection so new believers need to encounter something entirely different in the church.
For some, it is easier to love the inhabitants of Africa or India or China than it is to love one another in your church body. People have problems and they aren’t always faithful and loving and forgiving. So sometimes it is difficult to remain in the love of Christ for them — but that is what God is calling us to do. And that is what Paul is talking about. You can wear yourself out evangelizing in your city with the passion and zeal of a missionary, but if you don’t love those around you, all that is not effective.
We can make converts to Christianity, but in our hearts we must have love for one another. I long for all Christians to have an evangelistic, on-fire passion to reach the lost and poor and needy, but I also long to see them filled with love. The more we seriously strive to be the Body of Christ that Paul is teaching about here, the healthier the church becomes and, likewise, the healthier new disciples become.
Health is contagious just as sickness is contagious so let’s endeavor to spread the love and joy of the Lord to those around us.