The apostle Paul wrote one of the world's most eloquent expressions about love in a letter to a church in Corinth of ancient Greece. Paul was a highly educated Jewish leader and scholar before his conversion on the road to Damascus. He began the 13th chapter of his first letter to the church in Corinth by speaking of himself as nothing on his own. He might be a great speaker, prophet, wise man, a man of great faith and generosity for the poor, he said, or a man ready to be martyred for God. Yet, it would all amount to nothing without knowing love and how to love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3).
Then, he uses terms that many people of his aggressive day and ours consider to be "uncool." For here is real love:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Furthermore, here is how strong and lasting love is:
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away (I Cor. 14:4-9).
Next, St. Paul shows that love is not naive. We lose naivete as we grow up. We lose a kind of pure innocence that the world destroys, yet we begin to see more clearly, to discern things of practical and spiritual matters, with this love:
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known (I Cor. 13:11-12).
Finally, this man known as a man of faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ, this man of hope known to have risked his life over and over to spread the good news about Jesus, this man shows the fulfillment of faith and hope through the excellence and glory of the love that comes from God through His Son. After prophecies, mysteries, wisdom, good works, knowledge, skills, and all things have passed away, what is left? Here is the triumph of the three that remain:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (verse 13).
This same apostle also wrote that we are saved by faith, through grace. That is where we begin with God. Life gets more difficult usually, for now we no longer fit in with the world, by our own choice, being changed by the Spirit of God. We no longer want the things of the world; we prefer to know Christ, the crucified, risen, and living Lord!
So, why not just die? God has life for use in heaven. Why not go? He keeps us here until His time set for us to go to be with Him fully. To help us here, he gives us hope. The hope is set in Christ, the Lord. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter Christ promised to send, we live in hope now and eternal.
Faith and hope are supreme, with love. Yet, is not love the culmination of the faith and the hope we know in Christ? We exercise faith, which gives us hope upon hope. Faith and hope lead us to more and more love, which is God. We desire to know HIm more than any other, through Christ the living Lord.
Faith and hope help us to grow in Christ, and He helps us grow in love, in the ability to give and receive unselfish love. All good things flow from God. This includes His forgiveness and our ability to handle mutual forgiveness. God shows us, once we put our faith in Him. From Him we learn how to experience reconciliation that lasts. By His strength, not our own, we are taught how to grow to trust and love Him more. He instills in us His love for others. This love is far more than pity or sentimentality. It is as strong as iron.
These three abide. Faith, Hope. Love. They are connected with each other in Christ. They weave together. The culmination is love. Let us us abide, as Christ tells us to do, in Love. God is love.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (I John 4:8).
More information: Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Bible.