Today’s reading immediately follows the "Love Chapter" where we are told what love is and is not, what love does and doesn’t do. This chapter is often extracted for reading at marriage ceremonies. One of the benefits of a disciplined reading of the Bible, however, is that we get to see familiar passages in the full context of the book in which they appear. For example, the love chapter is preceded by a passage on spiritual gifts. While Paul describes various gifts and how they are essential to the body of Christ, they are worthless to us unless they are used in love.
Today’s passage continues by showing us the "way of love." We are reminded again to eagerly desire spiritual gifts but particularly the gift of prophecy. When we hear of prophecy, we may tend to think of bearded men dressed in camel hair clothes walking through the city streets declaring doom and gloom on its inhabitants. Paul, however, shows us a different side of prophecy.
A prophecy is a message from God. Sometimes that message may come in the form of a warning; it may also declare things that will happen in the future. But Paul tells us to yearn for the gift of prophecy so that we may strengthen, encourage and comfort the body of Christ, the church. How is this done? It can be as simple as telling someone they are doing a great job; it can be in listening to someone who needs a shoulder to cry on; it can be letting someone know that you see in them a particular strength. Each of these are simple things but they are also very effective in building up the church (and they can be done without camel hair clothes).
Of course, prophecy is not the only spiritual gift. There are many kinds and many people have more than one spiritual gift. If you would like to learn more about spiritual gifts and specifically what your spiritual gifts are, sign up for the Network Workshop on Saturday, October 22. It is a great way of building up the church.