And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV
Have not – How we agonize over this verse! Paraded before the cringing audience in the pews, preachers hammer believers for their lack of “love.” When we read Paul’s statement in quiet meditation, we come away convicted. We are crushed under a standard that few if any can achieve. Our world is filled with the pursuit of prophetic powers, of understanding mysteries, of bottling faith that moves mountains. But love? Oh no, that is too much to ask. That, we are told, means sacrifice, denial, crucifixion. How can Paul expect such behavior of simple men and women?
There is an easy answer to the weight of this glory. It is to move in the opposite direction. It is to treat love as part and parcel with Christian morality. How can we meet the standard? All we need to do is reduce Paul’s exhortation to acting ethically, being a good person, treating our neighbor with occasional kindness, being “nice” to others. That will do, won’t it? After all, if we go the route of sacrifice, who will be left to run things? If everyone becomes a humble servant, who will be in charge? We may not have all knowledge, but that won’t matter if all that is necessary is to live a moral life.
Both directions are wrong. Neither relieves the tension. Love cannot be a standard so high that no human can achieve it nor can it be a method so easy that no one can miss it. When Paul uses the Greek echo me, he tells us that this “love” is conditional. In order for it to be present, some conditions must be met. Without those conditions, no matter what else is added or subtracted, “love” vanishes. Jacques Ellul provides the insight that explains these conditions. “No recognizable revelation exists apart from the life and witness of those who bear it. . . . If Christians are not conformed in their lives to their truth, there is no truth. This is why the accusers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were right to infer the falsity of revelation itself from the practice of the church. This makes us see that in not being what Christ demands we render all revelation false, illusory, ideological, imaginary, and nonsalvific. We are thus forced to be Christians or to recognize the falsity of what we believe. This is undeniable proof of the need for correct practice.” In other words, “love” is the practice of our claims of believing, and for those who follow YHWH, that practice turns out to be specifically defined by Torah. This means that Torah-less practice actually denies the revelation of the God of Israel. Torah-less faith is biblically inconceivable since the God who instituted Torah is the God of the Bible. Ellul is absolutely correct. If we do not live the Scriptures, we deny the revelation of all the Scriptures.
It is obvious that Christianity does not practice Torah. Theologians since 200AD have carefully and deliberately distanced themselves from the “Jewish” Torah. But doesn’t that imply they have also distanced themselves from the God who reveals Himself in the history and practice of Israel? Is it even reasonable to claim that Yeshua, Paul, James, John and Peter were not practicing the faithful observance of the revelation of God in Israel? Would any of these men have claimed that the Tanakh is no longer valid?
This line of thought forces us to ask, “How did Christianity become so far removed from its own source that it denied Jewish practice?” Until we answer that question, we have no right to claim to be biblically-based “Christians.” When we answer that question we may discover that we have no reason to be separate from Messianic Judaism.
Topical Index: love, history, Christianity, practice, Torah, 1 Corinthians 13:2
 Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 5-6.