Nothing is more central to the kingdom of God than agreeing with God about every person’s unsurpassable worth and reflecting this in how we act toward them. Nothing is more important that living in Christlike love for all people at all times. In fact, compared to love, nothing else really matters in the kingdom.
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says that all the most impressive religious and humanitarian activity in the world is completely worthless, except insofar as it expresses love. Let’s explore these.
A person may speak in tongues—even the glorious tongues of angels—but if his speaking isn’t motivated by love, it’s just religious noise.
A person may have the gift of prophecy and be able to proclaim the word of God in ways that dazzle audiences and build incredible mega churches. But if the use of these gifts isn’t motivated by love, they are, from a kingdom perspective, utterly worthless.
It doesn’t make a least bit of difference that a person has breathtaking insight into all mysteries or that they posses all knowledge. This would undoubtedly impress crowds and maybe even get them on the cover of your favorite Christian magazine, but if they aren’t motivated by a desire to ascribe unsurpassable worth to all people at all times, it’s meaningless.
Nor does it matter that a person has faith such that they can command mountains to be relocated and the mountains actually obey. This sort of miracle-working ability would certainly land them a nice spot on Christian television and would undoubtedly make them an excellent fund-raiser. But, according to Paul, it’s complete devoid of value unless it’s fueled by an agreement with God that every person alive is worth God himself dying for.
Finally, and perhaps most surprising, even if a person gives every single thing they own to the poor and endures great hardships in the course of their ministry, if there actions aren’t motivated by a love that looks like Jesus dying on the cross, it accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Let me go so far as to say this: If this is true about love—if the kingdom is nothing without it—then it seems to me we should regard the command to love to be the ultimate test of orthodoxy. To fail to love like Jesus is the worst form of heresy, regardless of how true one’s beliefs are. Demons believe true things, James tells us, but their true beliefs are worthless because they are not accompanied with works that reflect God’s love.
Love is the all-or-nothing of kingdom living. The “only thing that counts,” Paul says, is faith expressing itself through love.” We are to “do everything in love,” he says. Love is the primary expression of the kingdom life. Where God truly reigns in an individual or community, they will look like Jesus, sacrificially ascribing unsurpassable worth to all people, no ifs, ands, or buts.
—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 51-52, 60-61