Love Is The Greatest Thing
In the last week or so I have had the extraordinary privilege of conducting some funerals and at one of them I read a passage from the first letter that the apostle Paul wrote to guide and help the church at a place called Corinth. This passage is a popular choice for both weddings and funerals and this morning it struck me afresh as I have been thinking about the various gifts and skills and abilities that God gives to his people.
As I sat to write this blog I confess I had no idea this would be the theme I’d be writing about but I feel prompted to share this with you so here goes:
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
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. 2
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. 3
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.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, 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. 9
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10
but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11
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. 12
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.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In recent weeks and months here at EBC we have been talking about and asking for more and more of the Holy Spirit present in power in our lives and in our church. Perhaps it is as well to remind ourselves that to each is given different gifts but love is the pre-eminent requirement and it applies to each of us.
Jesus taught that we are to love one another and to love our neighbour (meaning everyone) and even said that loving God with all we have and loving other people as ourselves were the two most important commandments – upon which everything else depends.
So here’s my question – irrespective of any other gifts, talents, abilities, prayers, offerings or achievements… how are you doing on the “love” side of things?
Aside from being a huge privilege, conducting a funeral or two certainly concentrates your mind – you don’t want to get it wrong! But here’s the thing – conducting (or indeed attending) a funeral also reminds one very strongly of what’s really important in life, and what is remembered by others when that earthly life reaches its natural ending. So I ask myself (and perhaps you will too) – how am I doing on loving God and loving others – and will I be remembered with love?