“There are too many mediocre things in life. Love should not be one of them.”
To me it’s no surprise that love was the first Fruit of the Spirit. Personally I rank love as the most important, and I don’t think I’m alone in this: in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul himself said, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I think faith and hope are pretty important, too, but love is the MOST important.
Most of you (invisible readers) have probably heard of the famous “Love Chapter,” namely, 1 Corinthians 13. See? Love was so important it got its own chapter! Paul outlines love quite clearly if you ask me. He starts off the Love Chapter by saying, “If I speak the tongues of men and angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (vs. 1-3)
I think I should have used my NIV version instead of my Holman version of the Bible, because it seems to be clearer–but maybe I just think that because I’m more used to it. Anyway, this stuff is pretty big–I mean, being multilingual would be pretty awesome, and the idea of being able to talk to ANGELS is just mind-blowing. Imagine being able to understand all of this world’s mysteries! You’d be, like, better than the greatest scientist! You’d be smarter than Einstein! (And I’ll bet people would call YOU crazy at first, too.) And having such a strong faith that you’re able to move MOUNTAINS?! What would THAT kind of faith feel like?! And donating everything you have–every SINGLE thing–to the poor and then sacrificing yourself as a martyr? That would take quite a lot of courage if you ask me!
But despite all these wonderful things that you could have, if you don’t have love, it simply doesn’t mean a thing. You’re worthless. And it doesn’t mean the kind of “LIKE like” love or “true love” that happens between two people when they decide to get married. This is loving people because they’re them, because they’re people, and because God loves them, so why shouldn’t you?
Next Paul goes on to describe love in more detail. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (vs. 4-8a)
This lays love out like a counter full of pizza toppings. You have the pepperoni, sausage, olives, cheese, sauce, peppers, pineapples, mushrooms, anchovies (do you put anchovies on pizza or did I just make that up?) and whatever else that I forgot. It’s all there, laid out before you in their separate containers, so you can see it. However, UNLIKE pizza toppings, you can’t just pick what you like and leave the rest. Love is not a bag of trail mix. You get the whole pizza, the extra large supreme, and the great thing is you get to share it with other people.
Love is patient and kind. That brings us two other Fruits of the Spirit (just think of the Fruits of the Spirit as a fruit salad–it’s all-in-one). Love doesn’t get jealous, it doesn’t boast or hold grudges, and it’s not vain, indecent, or selfish. It forgives and forgets. It’s sad when someone does something wrong but is overjoyed when they get it right.
When we come to the next part I’m reminded of the song by Skillet called “A Little More.” The song starts out with the words, “Love is all around you now, so take a hold. Hidden in the words is sometimes ain’t enough. Don’t suffocate it day after day; it’s building up. Cause when you’re feeling weak you know I’m strong enough.” Then the chorus says: “Oh, let the world crash, love can take it. Oh, let the world come crashing down.” The end of the chorus says, “Love can take a little, love can give a little more.”
Love is really, REALLY tough. It can stick it out there for a long time. The song calls it “indestructible.”
The bridge says, “You can find me anywhere. Take a look over your shoulder–I’ll be standing there.” Love is always there for you. God ALWAYS loves you, no matter what you do, and He’ll always be there for you, no matter what. Nothing you confess can make Him love you less.
I have an inspirational little story that I found on the Internet that I’d like to share. It goes like this:
Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all of the others, including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all constructed boats and left, except for Love. Love was the only one who stayed. It wanted to hold out until the last possible moment.
When the island had almost sunk, Love decided to ask for help. Richness was passing by in a grand boat; Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?”
Richness answered, “No, I can’t. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place here for you.”
Love decided to ask Vanity, who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel. “Vanity, please help me!”
“I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat,” Vanity answered.
Sadness was close by, so Love called, “Sadness, let me go with you.”
“Oh, Love…I need to be by myself,” Sadness replied.
Happiness passed by Love, but it was so happy that it didn’t even hear when Love called it.
Suddenly there was a voice. “Come, Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. So blessed and overjoyed, Love forgot to ask the elder where they were going. When they arrived on dry land, the elder went away.
Realizing how much was owed to the elder, Love asked Knowledge, “Who helped me?”
“It was Time,” Knowledge replied.
“Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?”
Knowledge smiled with a deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how valuable Love is.”
Time helps love grow. The longer you love someone, the more you love them and appreciate them for who they are. But now, getting back to the verse. After laying love out clearly for us, Paul seems to go just a LITTLE bit off-topic. Pretty much what he says is that love will survive through anything longer than anything else. At the end of the chapter is that famous verse: “These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The Skillet song goes on: “Stand beside you, never leave, through it all. Faith will bring a way through the impossible.” Faith, hope, and love seem to be pretty closely tied together. I see hope as being a lot like determination, always believing no matter what. And faith seems quite similar to that as well. To me, faith and hope are like two links in the same chain, but I see love as the heavy-duty clip on the end holding it all together.
Love is so beautiful. Do you know what true love feels like? I bet it feels better than anything in the whole world. I bet it feels like your own miniature miracle.
But God loves us more than we can ever imagine. I don’t think we’re physically capable of understanding just how much He loves us. He loves us more than we could ever love Him or any other person. We simply can’t comprehend the love He has for us. John 3:16, which might be the most popular and well-known verse in the Bible, says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (That’s kind of a mix of a bunch of different versions.) Can you believe giving your own SON as a sacrifice because of how much you love the world? It’s ridiculous, right? It’s like us loving a bowl of uncooked rice (note that I said UNCOOKED. We’ve still got a long way to go).
Now I’ve talked for a long time on love, and though there’s always more to say, I’ll leave you with this little thought-provoker:
“One day a man asked God what was the difference between our love and His love. God smiled and said, ‘A bird in the sky is My love, and a bird in a cage is your love…'”