So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13)
Love is the fulfilling of the law of God; for God Himself is love (Rom. 13:10). He demonstrates His love in everything He does. The theme of the entire Scripture is the self-revelation of the God of love. In other words, another name that the Bible can be called is “The book of Love”.
What is love? Love means different thing to different people. But for the purpose of this work, love will be defined as sacrificial giving; what we do for God or for our brethren without counting the cost, without fear or favour and without any expectation of gain or benefit in return. This is exactly what God Himself did in John 3:16, because of LOVE, He sacrificed His ONLY SON for the sin of the whole world. If we leave love out of religion the loveliest services will be of no avail to us.
Let us briefly see what love is and what love will always do. Love is patient and kind. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and rejoices in the right. On the other hand, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; and it does not rejoice at wrong. According to Paul the apostle, if we give away all we have while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. He further said that the most grievous sufferings, the most costly sacrifices will not recommend us to God if we do not love our brethren; should we give our body to be burnt, it will not profit us (1 Cor. 13:1-7).
A true testimony of a victorious Christian life is a life lived in divine love i.e. Love for God. This is the first and the greatest commandment. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Mark 12:29-30, Matt. 22:37, Luke 10:27.). The demand of God from man is for man to love Him in return. To love God as a response to His love for us is to fear and obey Him. This is simply summarized in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will obey My command.” Obedience as opposed to disobedience is a life and death issue. God has given humankind the innate power of choice: and the choice of obedience leads to God’s promised blessings, but the choice of disobedience leads to curse, judgment, and death.
Another demand of God from mankind for His love for us, apart from loving Him in return is to love our neighbour as ourselves. Love for our neighbours is a decision that we make to treat others with respect and concern; to put the interests and safety of our neighbours at a level with our own. Indeed, the world should be able to recognize a Christian not just by his doctrine but by his love.
For the Christians, to love is not a suggestion to consider, it is not optional, but a command to follow. Husbands are commanded to love their wives. In fact, the command to love is not only to our fellow Christians, but it is expected to be extended to our enemies. Indeed, love is a mark of Christians. We are called to be known for our love for other Christians, regardless of denomination, race, colour, socio-economic background, educational level or personality. Anyone who is genuinely saved should have a love for all Christians, not just the one in our Churches or theological background. We are expected even to love people who do not share our faith or belief, so far as they are human beings.
Apostle Paul further said in this first epistle to the Corinthians chapter 13 that, as good and as spiritually profitable speaking in tongue is, it will in one day cease; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for knowledge, it will pass away, but love never ends (13:8). Surely, not everyone will prophesy. Not everyone will speak in tongue, but everyone should covet the most excellent gift which is love.
Beloved, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). Christ has shown us the way to love by laying down His life for us. How can we then lay down our lives for others? It is simple! It is by serving others sacrificially with no thought of receiving any gain in return.
Finally, let me recommend here that as individual, as a couple, as a family and as a church, we need to pause once in a while to x-ray our lives with 1 Cor. 13:1-13 to be sure if we are truly in love.