3rd June 2012
The Greatest Thing
“And now I will show you the most excellent way. …”
1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV UK)
Have you ever thought about the fact that the only thing in the world that really matters is love? It’s the only thing that lasts, the only thing that makes us whole, that fills us, that soothes us, that completes us.
Paul describes love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of 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 if 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).
Doing good things, behaving decently and kindly; these things are good, but they are not the same thing as love. They can be done without love. Con artists fake good behaviour all the time, but only so they can take advantage of people. They use outward behaviour as a ruse to hurt people, not as an expression of love.
Paul continues: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verses 4-7).
It’s interesting that Paul never says of love: “It keeps the law.” If we take time to meditate on these beautiful characteristics of love that Paul is listing, we can begin to see that love is vastly higher and deeper than merely keeping the law. Love is in the heart, and it is always real. Law keeping is often only in the will.
Paul goes on: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (verses 8-13).
Everything is temporary—from prophecies to knowledge to childhood to spiritual manifestations. Everything will fade away, except, that is, faith, hope and love. And as Paul said, the greatest of these is love. Thieves can steal your goods; liars can ruin your reputation; disease can rack your body; but nothing can destroy real love. It is God’s greatest gift, and the one that we will take with us into the next life.
Holy Father, we think we understand love, but we really don’t. You have demonstrated your love for us through the sacrifices Jesus made and the reconciliation it brings on our acceptance. But still our understanding of love in our daily walk with you is imperfect. Help us in our imperfection, most Holy Father. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach