1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIVUK)
This chapter (1 Corinthians 13) is well known for its description of love but often quoted out of context. Although it is often used at weddings, that was not the reason that Paul wrote it. He was dealing with a church which has been proudly squabbling about which spiritual gift was the greatest (and by implication which of them was the greatest). They assumed that the most spectacular gifts were superior, but failed to see that the gifts glorified the giver more than the receiver.
So Paul patiently explained that their motive mattered more than what they achieved; and that the use of any of God’s gifts without genuine love, invalidated their service or ministry. The ‘excellent way’ of using the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31b) was with the same kind of self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated. Love therefore endures because God is eternal and God is love.
Faith and hope also persist through eternity. ‘Faith’ is trust based on love: it is a decision to commit oneself into the hands of another. If we know that those hands are full of love for us, trust is not a complicated decision; it is just the next step. ‘Hope’ is the confidence that all we have invested in God will be safe and lead to a glorious conclusion. But if we are not confident that He loves us, then hope, (eternal and confident hope) will fade, if indeed it ever started.
Love is the unstoppable natural expression of God’s character. It is the basis for faith and hope; and therefore it is superior to both of them. Discussions about faith or hope are meaningless without a confidence that God loves us. Likewise, spiritual ministry is valueless unless we love those we serve. As Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Do you love like that?
Prayer: Loving Lord. Thank You for loving me and calling me to return to Your love. Forgive me when I have assumed that the value in my service is according to what I have done, rather than on how much I love You. Please give me a fresh desire to serve sacrificially because I love You so much. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.