The greatest of all things is LOVE.
The greatest, confirmed by the Apostle Paul of old, and agreed upon by the world’s greatest thinkers, artists and poets is:
Love is the best, even says Paul better than faith or hope.
The Bible book 1 Corinthians 13 is Apostle Paul’s finest expressions of love by far, perhaps the finest writings in all of his letters. But even Paul acknowledges that there is no really complete and definitive definition of love. But Paul says what real love, ultimate love is, can only occur as a result of a meaningful, experiential, loving relationship with God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. The fulfillment of that comes eternally, but here and now, the longer, the deeper the relationship with HIM, the more the meaning of love becomes clear. That, says Paul, that relational love is ultimate reality.
Love is good. In fact, good is defined by love. For no mere mortal can do good without love. One may intend, willingly so to live right, perhaps following the Ten Commandments and other great moral precepts. But that mere intention, the act of the will is not enough for it lacks the energy, the conviction, the power of real LOVE, total love.
For as one poet has said:
GOD SAYS TO US IN LOVE: I HOLD YOU IN MY MIND. I REMEMBER YOU. I HOLD ALL OF THE PIECES OF YOU. THE PAST WOUNDS AND THE PRESENT. AND IN LOVE, I KNIT THEM TOGETHER INTO THE PERSON I LOVE, THE PERSON I CREATED TO GIVE ME JOY:
More. Love says Paul is patient. Love is longsuffering, not easily provoked. Love knows how to wait, fully observe, and listen, perhaps most importantly LISTEN. Love sees and hears the other. As the poet Thomas Merton said:
THE BEGINNING OF LOVE IS TO LET THOSE WHO LOVE BE PERFECTLY THEMSELVES, AND NOT TO TWIST THEM TO FIT OUR OWN IMAGE. OTHERWISE, WE LOVE ONLY THE REFLECTION OF OURSELVES WE FIND IN THEM.
In a world angry and hateful and growing worse, love is the only antidote, the ONLY! With his heart wide open, the Apostle Paul says love is KIND. The life of a lover is lived easy, gentle, avoiding confrontation and struggle wherever possible. Said the writer Sydnie Smith:
IF YOU HAD NO ONE TO LOVE, YOU WOULD NEVER BE HURT. BUT YOU WOULD NEVER GROW. YOU WOULD NEVER VENTURE OUTSIDE OF YOUR OWN SELF-CENTERED NEEDS AND PERCEPTIONS. YOUR HEART WOULD NEVER BE CRACKED OPEN SO THAT GOD COULD ENTER IT. TO LOVE AND TO LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY IS TO TAKE RISKS, AND ESPECIALLY THE RISK OF REJECTION. BUT NOTHING ENERGIZES AND CLEANSES LIKE LOVE, NOTHING!
Love, says the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 allows the lover to dwell on good things. The lover avoids gossip and negative language. Love stays silent in the face of false accusations as Jesus did. The communication of a lover is positive as Rod McKuen said:
IF YOU LOVE SOMEBODY, TELL THEM! THE TELLING UNLEASHES THE ENERGY AND THE POWER OF LOVE.
Does it ever. It seems difficult for so many to say distinctly, clearly and unconditionally:
I LOVE YOU
For that is the ultimate exposure, “a heart cracked open.” But those three words are perhaps the most powerful in the English language.
Love then says Paul does not insist on its own rights or its own way. A loving person gets more out of giving, and caring than getting. To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others. So said the writer Francois Mauriac. Love is a miracle, miraculous in its absolutely powerful and transforming effect. That kind of giving, other-ness is truly the love of God at work which both constrains and motivates.
Love says Paul, never keeps a moral balance sheet. Lovers take no account of the wrongs or evil done by others. Love forgives and forgets. It is difficult to forget but Paul says if you live in love, you can forget. That is so even for the most difficult object of love, an ENEMY. It seems hard to believe that we could love an Islamic terrorist or an angry political opponent or even a hateful family member or friend. We really can’t, but we can do so with the power of a loving God working within us who himself forgave us, forgot what was wrong with us and only in return, asked us to forgive others.
The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said the following:
WE ARE SAVED BY THE FINAL FORM OF LOVE, WHICH IS FORGIVENESS. FORGIVING AND FORGETTING ARE THE HIGHEST ACTS OF LOVE RESULTING IN OUR SALVATION. THERE WAS ONE YEARS AGO DRIVEN TO THE CROSS BY THE LOVE OF MANKIND PROVIDED IN HIS DEATH, THE LIFE AND THE LOVE WE LEAD. THE CROSS WAS THE FINAL AND FORGIVING FORM OF LOVE.
Was it ever. The crucifixion of the Christ on the cross was indeed the ultimate act of love.
Love protects and defends. It guards the hearts and minds of the young. It trains up children in the way in which they should go. It shows them the way of the Lord, the path of righteousness. It helps them to resist the devil who in the face of love will flee and not return.
Love is loyal and always at work. The great writer St. Augustine said the following:
WHAT DOES LOVE LOOK LIKE? WHY, IT HAS HANDS TO HELP OTHERS. IT HAS FEET TO HASTEN TO THE POOR AND NEEDY. IT HAS EYES TO SEE MISERY AND WANT. IT HAS EARS TO HEAR THE SIGHS AND SORROWS OF HUMANKIND. THAT IS WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE!
Amen and amen.
And then Paul says:
LOVE NEVER FAILS
It endures, never-ending here but more importantly FOR ALL ETERNITY. True love, ultimate love can never be destroyed. The great theologian Paul Tillich said:
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE, TIME IS ETERNITY. LOVE IS GOD’S FINGER ON MAN’S SHOULDER. LOVE IS LIKE A RUNNING BROOK THAT SINGS ITS MELODY TO THE NIGHT. TO WAKE AT DAWN WITH A WINGED HEART AND TO GIVE THANKS FOR ANOTHER DAY OF LOVING. LOVE IS A SYMBOL OF ETERNITY. IT WIPES OUT ALL SENSE OF TIME, DESTROYING ALL MEMORY OF A BEGINNING AND ALL FEAR OF AN END.
Brilliant and accurate. Paul then tells us that words without love are like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Hollow, meaningless, perhaps doing more harm than good. Better by far to LISTEN:
THE FIRST BEAUTY OF LOVE IS TO LISTEN. LISTENING, REALLY LISTENING IN A CARING WAY, MAY VERY WELL BE THE HIGHEST ATTRIBUTE OF TRUE LOVE.
More brilliant insightful words from theologian Paul Tillich. Real listening really is the highest attribute of true love, real love. We allow the heart of another to crack open, pour out, empty so that there is nothing left but love.
Paul then says the act of the will can motivate an individual to give to the poor, to tithe and use money well, or even give your body, to lay down your life for another. But if any or all of that is done without love no matter how good, Paul says without love it means little or nothing.
But love indeed is risky. The great writer C.S. Lewis said:
TO LOVE AT ALL IS TO BE VULNERABLE. LOVE ANYTHING AND YOUR HEART WILL CERTAINLY BE WRUNG AND POSSIBLY BROKEN. LOVE BREAKS DOWN ALL BARRIERS, OPENS WIDE THE HEART, EXPOSES TRUE INNOCENCE AND RISKS THE RINGING AND THE BREAKING OF THIS MORE PRIZED POSSESSION. REAL LOVE DEMANDS THIS, CONSTANTLY.
Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson said:
“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Life without love is a life never really lived at all. “If you love until it hurts, really hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love,” said the wonderfully loving Mother Theresa. The Apostle Paul would fully agree.
Love is not jealous, said Paul. It envies no one or nothing. Rather, there is rejoicing when the very best things happen to others. And we in love can help them. The Poet Emily Dickenson said the following:
IF I CAN STOP ONE HEART FROM BREAKING
I SHALL NOT LIVE IN VAIN
IF I CAN EASE ONE LIFE THE ACHING
OR COOL ONE PAIN
OR HELP ONE FAINTING ROBIN
INTO HIS NEST AGAIN
I SHALL NOT LIVE IN VAIN!
So beautiful, and so true.
Love never controls. Rather, it lets go. It never holds on and it encourages others to be all they can be. Love is not possessive. If we love, we let those we love be perfectly themselves! We have no fear of hurt because of the actions of others. The more one loves, the less there is of which to be afraid.
And love is humble, says Paul. Never boastful or bragging. Love really has no ego. Love allows us to be about others more than ourselves. Content are we to be immersed in the love of God.
That allows us to live modestly, humbly and joyfully.
Then, Paul deals with anger and reminds us that love is not easily angered. Not that one never gets angry, for we do. But that anger is slow to occur, slow to wrath. Love allows us to be angry, but only in the extreme. Love allows us to turn the other cheek and move on, pressing on for the high calling. Love more than anything is powerful energy at work, always.
So remember, says Paul, that of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest. It is eternal, never-ending:
LOVE NEVER FAILS
And as one poet says:
LOVE IS THAT WHICH MAKES THE SKY BLUE, THE SUBSTANCE OF THE SONG OF THE BIRDS IN SUMMER, THE WHISPER OF THE WIND IN THE TREES, THE SILENCE OF THE SNOW AS IT FALLS. LOVE IS THE VOICE OF GOD CALLING TO US ENDLESSLY AND PASSIONATELY THROUGH ALL HIS MARVELOUS CREATION.
Love is everything said the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, never self-possessed or prudent. LOVE IS ALL ABANDONMENT. Or as the Poet William Wordsworth said:
LOVE BETTERS WHAT IS BEST!
Does it ever.
We the Crawford Broadcasting Company hope for you the best, the greatest, love and especially the love of God. Live in love and share it, my fellow Americans. Open a cracked open heart to it. Feel the miracle, the energy and the power of love.
Those who love deeply never grow old. They may die of old age, but they die young at heart said Sir Arthur Pinero. But in death comes the completion of love:
KNOWING FACE TO FACE
That ultimate encounter with God the Creator and Jesus Christ:
What a day that will be.
Looking back, said one writer, I have this to regret. That too often when I loved, I did not say so. Love uncommunicated is love aborted. It is there but never shared. More time is spent judging people which leaves less time to love them.
Don’t be like him. Allow Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s week, the love days to be reminders of what really matters. For in the end, nothing matters but:
Find out how much love your heart can hold!