When Paul told the Corinthian church that they are all members of one body, and that each has it’s own role, he then launched into what’s known as “the love chapter.” Paul made the very powerful point that love is essential for the body of Christ to function. It is the heart, even the heartbeat, of the church. Love is what binds everyone and everything together. It’s what maintains peace and unity.
Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2 ESV). Paul says love is patient and kind, it doesn’t envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It is not self-seeking. This is the polar opposite of what Paul was addressing earlier in this letter to the Corinthians.
Earlier, Paul warned that selfish, greedy, idolatrous, and sexually abusive people will not inherit the kingdom of God. He told the church to avoid such people within the community of believers and to purge the evil. Why? Because love doesn’t do those things. Love corrects, rebukes, and even avoids people who are destructive. There is no place for disunity and destruction in the Lord’s church. While hatred tears down, love builds up. And God wants believers everywhere to build each other up into Christ as our head.
When churches and individuals love well, there is peace and protection, honor and provision. Love is essential for the body to be well. Like a body whose heart stops beating, the body of Christ dies when the body stops loving. Love is the heartbeat of the church.