“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Without love for God and for others there is no true piety. All our pious actions are worthless if they are not motivated by love — love for God and love for others. This is what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees and what Paul is teaching us here.
God is love. If we, as followers, are to reflect His nature to the world, we, too must be loving. Not just to our family and friends, but to everyone we meet, and yes, even to those who seem completely unlovable. Not to earn God’s approval, not because He needs our love, simply out of gratitude for the grace and mercy He extends to each of us.
This goes back to Beth Ann’s post about personal piety. Truly pious people are not looking for a reward. They don’t need to attract attention or be held up as shining examples of sainthood. Pious people have internalized Christ’s character. They are humble and unassuming. They are focused. The engine that drives them is simply love. Guess what? If you think you’re pious, you’re not there yet!
Will we ever become truly and 100% pious? Not in this life. That’s why Lutherans think of piety as an ideal, and sanctification as a process. The more we study, pray and worship, the more we walk and talk with Christ, the more like Him we’ll become. Love will be our motive.