Sometimes ideas can be baffling! And (sorry if this offends you!) the Bible itself can be the source of some pretty head-scratching concepts.
There are many reasons for this: authors were speaking to the people, cultures and issues of their day; language translation can provide extra challenges; and maybe the biggest of them all, the Bible is dealing with spiritual concepts (which can seem like foolishness to those who are outside of relationship with God).
One idea that was hard for me to understand for years is found in the final words of the Apostle Paul when wrapping up an amazing dialog on the topic of love captured in 1 Corinthians 13. He said:
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.“
Why in the world is love the greatest? I suspect most people of faith would look at these three words (and their huge concepts) — faith, hope and love — and conclude that faith is the greatest. Isn’t that what following God is all about?
While you might want to add to this list, here are five reasons I’ve found that point toward why love is the greatest.
Love is the essence of:
1. God Himself: God IS love
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
2. God’s promise: we ARE loved
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
3. Our worship: we are to RESPOND to God in love
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
4. Our mission: we are to ACT in love
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30)
5. Our identity: we are to be KNOWN by our love
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Why is love the greatest? It is only through love that our faith finds its true expression. And the opposite is also true: Whenever something is less than loving, its origin is not the good news of Jesus.
While the Bible may contain some concepts that are challenging to understand, this is quite clear.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.
For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen,
cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
” The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
These challenge me greatly, because like you, I’m a broken person who fails at this “loving” thing all the time. Envy, hate, jealousy and rage are all part of my nature that I must reject daily, even as I press on to grow in the likeness of Jesus. But because of his grace toward me — and you — he makes this pathway of love possible.
Let’s continue growing in love, even as we desire to grow in faith. It’s our only way forward.