Very often 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is considered an interim between chapters 12 and 14. Of course this is correct.
The problem is during the last century there has been much debate about the surrounding chapters. Pentecostal and charismatic movements have been practicing and emphasising the charismatic gifts described in these chapters. Others have been questioning some of these practices. Some maintain that these charismatic gifts ceased to exist since the New Testament has been completed. On this ground they warn against Pentecostals and Charismatics as of false teachers.
These Anti-Charismatics tend to regard chapter 13 as an important part of Paul’s argument. Of course they are right in saying so. However they use the chapter to promote their position. They say Paul had been really against the use of charismatic gifts in the Corinthian church.
What I am really concerned about is that in doing so they kind of degrade chapter 13. They seem to think of it merely in terms of their polemic argument. And I am afraid in the heat of that debate they even tend to forget about love. Yet obviously St. Paul is emphasising the importance of love in this chapter.
They seem to conceive of themselves as good people, loving their friends and party members anyway. So they neither need to feel challenged by Paul’s words on spiritual gifts, nor by what he says about the importance of love.
You may ask: Can Pentecostals and Charismatics be short of love too? Obviously they can. St. Paul must have had some reason to point to the importance of love in this context. Yet honestly, those who spend so much time talking about the Holy Spirit and his work in the believer really ought to recall that the Holy Spirit also is referred to as a spirit of love. (cf. 2 Timothy 1:7).
For the purpose of my blog I have been trying to avoid this debate. And I have been looking for a wider application of verses 1 to 3. I wanted what I am saying to be applicable to both, Charismatics and Anti-Charismatics.
Whenever our talk about love should be reduced to matters of debate or quarrel, we already may have departed from the way of love. Love, charity, or agape does not call for theological discussion primarily. It calls for deeds of love and loving attitudes.