the greatest of these is LOVE
1 corinthians 13:1-8
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. 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. love never fails.
wow! i’ve probably read this passage a million times but today, i am struck with something quite convicting inside of these words. i have heard this message about loving others preached or taught within the context of marriage, relationships, within the scope of extending the depth of our desires, realms of possibility…basically, loving those whom we can comprehend ourselves loving -friends, family, those in the margins, etc. after all, we have a foundation of love for these people, or our love toward them is centered on human compassion. we leave the message reminded that we should stop harboring resentments, petty grudges and that we should begin coming out of ourselves enough to help those less fortunate, right?
however, i was challenged when i thought about a love shown through obedience….because doing something out of obedience is often more challenging than doing it out of desire or willingness. that all so famous phrase we like to quote, “love your enemies” is strangely more than a simple charge to make ammends. though it could mean that as well, i think this kind of love calls for a real and honest engagement of who we consider our enemy. for example, what about those people who are absolutely unlovable in our minds? perhaps those who have harmed us or those who have harmed others -murderers, traffickers, the unmentionables. to love such people is unimaginable! however, should love be a respecter of persons?
as valentine’s day (our culture’s dedicated day of love) approaches, as well as the first day of lent a few days following, i think about this word: love. as christian’s, we believe that christ came and bore all things upon himself on the cross because god loved, loves and will continue to love that which god created. the reality is that love means nothing unless there is a cost involved. this is what i believe 1 corinthians 13 is trying to convey. what is profound in loving something or someone that is already lovable? god did not send his only begotten son to suffer and die for those without stains, those who were blameless and without sin. no, christ died for the wretched, those deserving of eternal separation. christ died for all -you, me, child traffickers, and the murderer on death row…. yes, christ died for ALL.
the thought of this makes me cringe, if i’m being honest. in my mind, i am SO different than my enemy. yet, to know that christ loves the same. this is a truly difficult passage to swallow. somehow though, it challenges me that my faith has to be something more than talk and to continually remember that christ died for me just as much as anyone else. may my heart toward greater love begin with confession and repentance. if i cannot love the small offenders in my life, how can i possibly extend love to those that seem tragically unlovable?
i pray that as we ponder and prepare our hearts for the lenten season, may we be continuously reminded of the infinite and immeasurable love of our god and may our lives emanate with a costly love that the world would think incomprehensible.
faith, hope, love. but the greatest of these is LOVE.