And these three remain…
1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I had an interesting experience last night. While I was running some errands, I ran into an old friend of mine. She and I had experienced a lot together, and, at one time, we were best friends. Then things changed. The change in status in our relationship came as a shock to me, and I really didn’t know how to deal with it at the time. One day, I suppose, she decided that the things she wanted in her life were different than the things I represented. So she just dropped off the face of the earth. And now, later, I look back on our friendship, and I recognize the signs that clearly show that we were on life support from the very beginning. (And by the way, yes, last night was awkward.)
Paul has written to the Corinthian church because they were in sin. In chapters 12 and 14, Paul is discussing spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues, etc…). But right smack dab in the middle is the “Luv” chapter. So did Paul go ADD for a second and just throw in this little aside about love? Nope…
The Corinthians were divided into two major camps: Those who had “spiritual gifts” and those who didn’t. They were infighting and calling names and playing God by determining who was going to heaven depending on which side of the “gifts” fence they were on. So Paul spends some time discussing the theology of spiritual gifts before addressing the real heart of the matter. As a body of believers, Christians are supposed to live in Love. Agape. Agape is an all-encompassing love. It’s more meaningful than Eros (hot sexy love), stronger than Storge (familial love), and more heartfelt than phileo (brotherly love). It’s a love that forsakes all else. Mac Powell sings in “Just to be With You,”
“I’ve heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
All of those dreams are an empty motion
It can never be done
I’ve never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea
Just to be with you, I’d do anything
There’s no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I’d give anything
I would give my life away.”
This is Agape love at its core. Agape is an all-consuming love, the kind of love we are to have for the Church.
My friend was not just my friend, she was a part of Christ. Did I show her the kind of Agape that she needed to be shown? Was I honest with her about the things in her life that were destructive? Was I too critical? Did I judge her too harshly when she fell? Was I more concerned with how she appeared than how she really was? Did I pray for her? Did I love her? Yes, I did, and I still do, but did I show that love the way Christ showed his love for the church? I don’t know.
It’s not possible in this earthly realm to fully understand love the way God does. But acting in love is not impossible to do. Learn to love others from the One who is Love. I’ve felt the ache of unrequited love and the sting of love gone wrong, but I’ve also felt the joy of a dead friendship that’s been restored. Nothing is impossible with God. So in those circumstances in life where you’re uncertain, or have been hurt, remember that learning to love is not always easy, but it’s always best. And a heart that acts first in love is a heart that grows closer to Jesus, precious moment by precious moment.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.