If you have ever made even a cursory study of Winston Churchill, you have quickly discovered that Churchill was an intriguing figure, to say the least. Apart from his being a dynamic leader who could rally a nation to fight and defend, Churchill was an eccentric character and, by nearly everyone, a tough nut to crack — even by those close to him. From waltzing around No. 10 Downing Street in a red gown with a rifle, cigar, and whiskey in hand to issuing urgent memos about checking into rabbit production to rallying the British people to fight the Nazis tooth and nail, Churchill was both driven and unpredictable. What is unmistakable, however, and what often brings the unusual pieces of Churchill’s political decisions as prime minister together is that Churchill saw, as biographer, William Manchester, puts it, “one major issue: victory over Hitlerism.” This singular aim for Churchill is what brought into focus all of the other issues swirling around him and defined him as Britain’s spectacular leader.
The Corinthian Problem
As I considered this, we came to 1 Corinthians 13 in our adult Bible study of 1 Corinthians at church this Sunday. Many issues were swirling around in the church at Corinth from whether to bring your Christian brother to court to how to exercise one’s God-given gifts to whether one should eat meat sacrificed to idols. As the Apostle Paul climbs through the mountain of issues, he comes to the pinnacle of his letter where he poetically lays out a truth that ties the answers to all of their questions and issues together: love is the greatest pursuit.
Earlier in the letter, Paul compares different Christian pursuits to building materials. Like the story of the Three Little Pigs, what you build your house with matters — not, of course, because of a big bad wolf, but rather because of the reality that someday your work will either carry eternal value or be a complete waste of time. On the one hand, Paul compares vain pursuits to wood, hay, and straw. These are the kind of materials that, by a spark, will burn to the ground. They are temporal and will be gone quickly. On the other hand, Paul compares eternal and valuable pursuits to gold, silver, and precious stones. These last and even reveal their high value more clearly when the fire comes.
As Paul carefully leads us through chapter 13, it becomes ever clearer that the things done, even impressive things, are worth nothing if they are not done with the singular focus of loving others.
What is my greatest pursuit?
This truth made me pause and ask myself, “What do I think about in the morning?” “What keeps me up at night before I fall asleep?” “What do I consider a successful week?” “What am I hoping to accomplish today, this week, this month, or next year?” As a Christian and someone who is involved in ministry, it can be easy to get caught up in the activity surrounding my service to people and all but forget about the people themselves and the Lord Jesus who loves them in the process.
Does the work itself matter? Yes, it does. Does there need to be careful thought, planning, and execution of tasks? Absolutely! But if the goal is to see how high you or I can pile my service, what we might be actually piling up is a large heap of combustibles.
Like Churchill’s singular focus to defeat Hitler that drove his actions, our daily activity as believers needs to be driven singularly by love for God and love for others. To try to live a successful Christ-like life without this linchpin of love is to leave behind precious, eternal cargo. Let godly love be our greatest pursuit and the driving force of our Christian lives.