As soon as you start talking about “the greatest,” you’re brought face to face with the question “The Greatest WHAT?” I’m glad you asked!
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When you’re trying to define something as “great” it has to have qualities that set it apart from your normal, day-to-day thing. Lots of things can be called great, depending upon the context. You may have heard a great song, or had a great slice of pizza. But the greatness of those things is fleeting, and their long-term impact is minimal, at best. Sooner or later you get tired of hearing the same song over and over, and no matter how much you like it you want to hear a different one. Even a great slice of pizza leaves you hungry after a while.
But move from “great” to “greatest” and now you’ve added a different element – the element of durability. The GREATEST things last and their impact remains. Whether referring to global empires, leaders of incredible vision or amazing inventions – even when they have been surpassed or passed away their impact continues. On the South American continent, where 11 of the 12 sovereign nations speak Spanish, Brazilians speak Portuguese due to the impact of the first truly global empire in the history of the world. The Portuguese Empire may have passed away, but elements of its impact remain. The same is true of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire and many others. So in measuring the greatest of the greatest, we need to look at HOW LONG the impact of something remains as well as how great its impact was.
And that brings us to today’s verse, which says, THREE THINGS WILL LAST FOREVER — FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE — AND THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
Things that will last forever. Now that’s not exactly a crowded category. Anything in it is automatically one of the greatest things in all of history. And God tells us that among these three things that will last forever, the GREATEST is LOVE. And that led me to begin wondering why LOVE was the greatest.
I think it’s because faith’s focus leads you to love the object of your faith. Faith doesn’t stand alone, you have to have faith IN something or someone. Jesus calls us to walk with Him as we place our faith in Him, He says, “Follow Me.” Small steps lead to bigger ones, and as we walk we find ourselves filled with love for the One with whom we are walking. So faith leads us to love Him. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.
Hope finds its ultimate fulfilment in our love of Christ. Assured by faith that Christ is calling us, we are born again into a living hope. And once hope springs to life within us, we find its expression in the love that surpasses all other loves.
Love is the greatest commandment. We are commanded to LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. Consuming, controlling, committed love. And we are commanded to express that love not only to God but to those around us, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Christ says the entire law of God is contained in these two commandments.
Love is the greatest call, because it offers the greatest intimacy. Does Jesus call us His disciples? Yes, of course; as He calls us to follow Him. But the invitation doesn’t end there. He calls us His friends. Stop and think about that for a moment, would you? Consider what that invitation actually means. Then be amazed as friendship progresses into the relationship of marriage. He calls us His bride, and prepares a home for us where we will be together forever. It’s a relationship like no other, and one to be treasured.
Love demands the greatest price. Totality. Love consumes, then it compels and controls. First, Christ’s love sent Him to the cross. He died for all. And now Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore we who live should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.
Love displays the greatest characteristics. This kind of love is so different it even demanded a new word – agape. It’s a new kind of love that draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God’s love in Christ. This love is not a form of natural affection, it’s an expression both of obedience and will that can even be expressed to our enemies. It is a supernatural fruit of the spirit that is patient and kind, it keeps no account of wrongs suffered and continues to give. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love is the greatest because love never fails.
And when we love like Him, neither will we.