Valentine’s Day: The Hallmark time of year when we focus attention upon on the ones we love with spoken and written sentiments, flowers, jewelry and/or candy.
In other words, this is a day set aside to show your love to another person or persons. We consider it a romantic day, generally the most romantic on the calendar. For most of us, it would not be a good thing to forget this special day.
The Bible reminds us that love is intended to be a good thing, even though many expressions of love in society miss the mark. Far more than a feeling or an urge, love at its best is a choice, a decision that places value on another or others and elevates regard for them.
In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as the love chapter. In the first century, even the church needed to be reminded what Christian love was — sometimes by being reminded what love is certainly not. Following is the chapter and the words Paul penned in his first letter to the Corinthians, translated in the New International Version. The Bible’s words are in italic. Editorial comments are not.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We find ourselves noticing others for a lot of reason. Some are outgoing, even loud. They may be bright and seem all-knowing, even given to dramatic exhibitions of faith. They might be able to pray passionately. They may be adept at accomplishing good, even wonderful, things. They may extremely generous and benevolent to the needy. They may neglect themselves for the benefit of others. But the early verses of this chapter are clear: One life ingredient is absolutely necessary — love. Without love, all the fine qualities and all the good works simply do not matter.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Here is what love is not: envious, boastful, proud, dishonoring, self-seeking, easily angered. Love does not keep score, nor does it delight in evil. By contrast, this is what love is: patient and kind. Love rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Everything is subject to failure or limitation except for love. People in Paul’s day had to be reminded that prophecies ceased, and the gift of glossolalia would be stilled. Knowledge will fail even the brightest person. Our limitations will disappear in the face of completeness. Being complete in Christ involves growing out of immaturity, including immature thoughts and actions. In Christ, we grow up. We grow in our understanding and in our knowledge of Christ, even as we are fully known by Christ.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
No commentary is needed for this verse. Faith, hope and love. The believer needs these to be complete in Christ. But the defining and greatest is love. Indeed, love is the essence of Christ. God is love. What good is faith in Christ without the love of Christ? Can there be real hope without the love that completes the believer’s life with Christ?
With the love of Christ comes the humility of the Savior. A truly humble believer stands out. The one possessed by love cannot seem to help but express that love wherever appropriate.
Want to be more like Christ? Seek Christ-like love and give yourself to it every day.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.