If I give away all my possessions,
and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,
but do not have love,
I gain nothing.
(I Corinthians 13:3, NRSV)
What is this love that Paul is writing about? He’ll list its characteristics in the nine verses following this one – something to go through adjective by adjective. But here are a couple of thoughts for starters:
Love is meaning good things for another and sacrificing to bring those things into reality; it’s not an emotion (like and love are not the same) but a choice to act willingly for the good of another. It’s why loving neighbor and enemy is possible, even when liking them is not.
Love recognizes that people are not means to other ends – this includes ourselves. Jesus said that the scriptures boiled down to two commandments: 1) Love God, and 2) Love Neighbor as Self. Loving our neighbor is recognizing and honoring the sanctity of his or her life. Without this love, we may reduce our neighbor to a tool that helps us or a hindrance that frustrates us. Loving ourself is recognizing and taking responsibility for the sanctity of our own life. Without this love, sacrifice for others reduces us to mere tools for the benefit of others and we gain nothing.
Why would some choose not to love neighbor? Fear of sacrifice: not having enough left for self, losing equality with another.
Why would some choose not to love self? Fear of integrity: having more than enough for self and neighbor – claiming equality with another.
Deeper than consciousness is the longing to give love and a willingness to give it sacrificially. (James Loder, The Transforming Moment, Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1989, p.177)