The greatest of these is love

When you think of “love,” who is the first person in your life that comes to mind? Spouse, parent, child, friend, brother, sister? How does that person show love to you, and how do you show it to them?

The Bible calls us to let steadfast, unconditional love be one of the hallmarks of our life.

If we do not have love, nothing else matters. The Bible tells us that no matter what we may try to do for God or for others, even trying to demonstrate how strong our faith in Jesus is or how much we will sacrifice for our faith, if we do not have love then our actions don’t amount to very much. If you are like most people, you can detect when someone is motivated by love or motivated by other reasons. If you are motivated by other reasons, your actions will not have the impact that loving actions will have.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2  If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3  And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

We can know what love is. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word chesed is translated “love” and means a steadfast, continual love, one that keeps going over time. In the New Testament period, there were four Greek words used for love. One was used for patriotic love, the kind you have for your city or country. A second word, eros, was used for the intimate love that God designs for a husband and wife to enjoy together. A third word, philos, refers to brotherly love, friendship love. The strongest Greek word was agape, and this type of love is unconditional. It’s the kind of love that parents show to their children, that grandparents show to grandchildren.

The Bible tells us what agape love looks like very practically. I challenge you to slowly read through verses 4-7 below, and allow the Holy Spirit to do an inventory on your life. Are you showing love to people in these ways?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5  is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6  Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Remember, love is steadfast and unconditional. Therefore, even if the other person is not showing love back to you, you continue to show love in all of the ways described in God’s Word.

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, a great way to read verses 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is by replacing the word “love” with “God.” It would read like this:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. God finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

We are called to love people the way God loves them. We are to be like Jesus in every way. He loved people unconditionally. His love was steadfast. Re-read the verses above. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need his help in how you show love toward others. Maybe you need to be more patient? more kind? etc etc. Take time now to re-read verses 4-7.

Love never ends. In heaven, there will be no more need for prophecies, interpretation of languages, increase in knowledge, faith or hope. The only thing that will increase for all of eternity is love, our love for God and our love for others. The greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, 10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. 11  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. 13  Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.

Jesus said that all people will know we are his disciples not by our faith or our hope but rather by our love. People will know we are his disciples by our steadfast, unconditional love for each other. Let us love people like Jesus did.

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