“But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (ESV)
Verse 31 here of chapter 12 offers important context for understanding chapter 13 that most folks ignore. Chapter 13 is, of course, the famous “love chapter.” Paul offers us a beautiful and vaunted description of what love looks like and the necessity of its centrality in our lives. And while it is certainly and obviously generally applicable, it’s context is advice on how to get our practice of the spiritual gifts right in the church body.
Love is important everywhere, but if we don’t get it right at home as a mark of first importance, getting it right somewhere else is functionally meaningless. In other words, if we aren’t practicing love in the church body, it won’t matter if we are practicing it elsewhere. The church will be broken without it and thus our love won’t be able to point others to a place where they can safely and consistently connect with and grow in Christ.
So, yes, let us get the practice of love right in our lives generally. But let us make absolutely certain that we get it right in the church lest we waste our time.