And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV84)
I am sure that we all have heard sermons and read books and devotions on this popular verse. So much has and could be said! Paul, at the close of his thoughts on love, compares and contrasts love with faith and hope. These three aspects (characteristics) of the Christian faith are central to our thinking. Faith, hope, and love flow through our spiritual veins like blood flows through our physical body. These three characteristics define us and make us Christian. Faith is what holds us to the cross of Jesus Christ for the certainty of our salvation. Hope provides us the certainty (not just wish) that there is more to life than that which we live every day. Hope sees with eyes of faith a heavenly kingdom for which we are bound. But it is love that empowers and establishes them both. It is knowing that God loves me as He does that empowers my faith and my hope.
In our verse for today, Paul tells us that, out of these three characteristics, love is the greatest. Of course it is! You see, our faith and our hope rises and falls with the experiences of our love, but love itself is a constant. God’s love does not rise and fall or waiver one bit. God’s love for us is unconditional and unilateral. He loves us no matter what. There is nothing we can do today to cause God to love us any more than He does, and there is nothing we can do to cause Him to love us any less. He is love. He expressed that love in sending His own Son into the world to save us. Jesus is the full expression of God’s love. Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrated His great love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God loves us so much that he is willing to pursue us even while we are running away from Him.
It is necessary to have faith. It is good to have hope. It is great to know the God who loves you in just the way you need to be loved and longs to receive your love in return. Truly, the greatest of these is love!