If you have been to many weddings, no doubt you have heard passages from 1Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1Corinthians 13:13 concludes with: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
What makes love the greatest? Love is the engine that drives faith and hope. Without love, faith and hope would not exist. Faith in something that has no love is an exercise in futility. Hope, without love, could not be. How can we hope for something that we don’t love? Unless both faith and hope are bathed in love, they are worthless.
Faith is essential to God. It is what pleases Him. “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
“Hope” means “to hope or wait for salvation with joy and full confidence.” It is more than a wish or desire but rather an unseen assurance. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith, hope, and love are often listed together in Scripture.
John Calvin puts forward a reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” Faith and hope are to the Christian’s benefit, but love always is directed to God and others. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). As fallen humans, we have no capacity to love others with perfect love unless it comes from God’s Holy Spirit. Through the love of the Holy Spirit in us, it draws others to Jesus.
“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
Love gives life in our spiritual gifts, relationships, work, and being. If my gift is teaching, and I do not love those I teach, then students will not want to hear what I am saying. If I work only for material gain and notoriety when my life comes to an end, I will see that money and personal gain did not give me peace or a place in Heaven. Life does not work without God’s love. God is love. He made us in His image to love Him, ourselves in a healthy way, and others. That is our purpose in life. Without love, our lives are futile.
We all know Christians who love well. They are the ones who are slow to talk about themselves but are quick to listen. They are the ones who encourage, pray, and sacrificially serve others. They don’t have to tell others they are Christian because they radiate love. Their love for God has no barriers and no ulterior motives but to love and obey their Savior.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . . .You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:9–17).
Is our walk with Jesus consistent even on our “bad” days when nothing seems to be going our way? To live out our faith, hope, and love in difficult times, sends a message to the world that our faith in God is real. I am not talking about always having a smile on our faces, but having the peace and assurance that God is in complete control in all circumstances. The way we live matters to God. Skeptics are watching Christians in every-day life. Sadly, many reject Christ because of the bad behavior of believers. Author and preacher Daniel Darling says this: “1 Corinthians 13, is not simply a nice passage to put on wall calendars and mugs, but a warning shot to believers, to a church that had become a cesspool of selfish ambition and sin. Paul says to them and to us, if you’ve lost love, you’ve lost everything.”
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).