How often have you heard 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” read at weddings? How often have you heard verses from this chapter quoted in the context of marriage?

The only problem with this is that Paul did not write this in the context of marriage. He wrote it in the context of spiritual gifts!

What does love have to do with it? Everything. Spiritual gifts are nothing without love. Especially prophecy is nothing without love: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understood 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 13:2)

If we prophesy and do not love the people to whom we are prophesying, we’re doing nothing more than making a bunch of noise: “Blah, blah, blah . . . ”

That sounds harsh, but it’s the truth: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Given the fact that this is sandwiched in between two chapters where Paul is talking about prophecy and tongues, I assume that those who are prophesying are nothing more than a “noisy gong” and those who are speaking tongues are nothing more than a clanging cymbal.

Years ago there was a TV show called “The Gong Show.” Apparently, it has recently been revived. In the version I remember, amateur performers would come with their often dubious talent. If any judge considered an act to be particularly bad, he or she could force it to stop by striking a large gong.

I am mixing two metaphors here: 1. Paul’s metaphor and 2. The TV show. In Paul’s metaphor, we are nothing more than a large object that makes a bad noise. In the TV show, the gong sounds when you’re judged “out!” Both are true if we prophesy without love.

The good news is that God in His grace sometimes works in spite of us. That is, we may give an accurate prophetic word without love and God may make sure that it hits home anyway.

An accurate word given without love is generally not going to be received well. It may be perceived as abrasive, offensive, judgmental, etc. The list goes on.

This does not mean that a word given in love will automatically be received well. However, as the Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) There is no reason that when we prophesy over someone that they should not feel loved by the Father. Even if they do not receive the word or it makes no sense to them – because it may not if it is truly prophetic – there is no reason they should not sense the love of God.

Words marinated in love are juicy and tasty. Be sure to check your heart before you give a prophetic word. For out of our hearts flow the issues of life, or “springs of life” as the Bible says. (Proverbs 4:23)

By Ralph Veenstra