At the start of our reading today Paul is making a promise to the Corinthian church as well as to us today as we read; He will reveal to us the most excellent way in which we are to go after and exercise ministry using the most appropriate, ‘greater’ gift for our context and situation. And what is the most excellent way? – Do it in love. This becomes clear from vs 1-3 where he directly connects the gift based theology of ministry written about in the previous chapter to this ‘most excellent way’. Paul is not saying that all that needs to happen is loving actions; rather he is declaring that as the Body of Christ takes seriously the call of Paul to move from ignorance about spiritual gifts to gift empowered service, such ministry done in the context, attitude and heart of love will radically change people and move them into living as the empowered Body of Christ.
Effectively, Paul is saying, (1) your gifted ministry (2) your selfless sacrifice (3) your motive for service all and (4) your personal transformation by the Spirit at work in you all needs to be offered, in love, for love and through love. Set between his general teaching on the place, relevance, importance and personal and corporate value of Spiritual Gifts, and the specific discussions about some of the abuses that exist in the Corinthian Church, this chapter on love sets the context for the spiritual activity that is envisaged. The passage does not emphasise “All you need is love” but it does encourage the Body of Christ to breath from the atmosphere of love. As you reflect on the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you, how are you using those gifts ‘in an atmosphere of love? Specifically, are you remembering to serve God and his church, wherever your ‘marketplace may be, in such a way as to reflect Gods love in the way you exercise gifted ministry?