Sunday December 29, 2002 | Greg Boyd
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Greg finished the sermon series on love this weekend by focusing on I Corinthians 13:8-13. As Greg has been saying throughout this series, love is the center of the Christian experience. Everything in Christianity hinges upon Christ’s demonstration of love on the Cross for us and our manifesting that love to others.
Greg finished the sermon series on love this weekend by focusing on I Corinthians 13:8-13. As Greg has been saying throughout this series, love is the center of the Christian experience. Everything in Christianity hinges upon Christ’s demonstration of love on the Cross for us, and our manifesting that love to others. For example, if we construct our doctrines just right and we practice all the spiritual gifts, and yet we lack love we are, as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:1-2, like a noisy cymbal or a resounding gong. All our goodness amounts to nothing. Love is the most important characteristic of Christianity. Greg shared three reasons why this is the case.
First, love is most important in the Christian life because it never ends. In I Corinthians 13:8, Paul writes that things such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and words of knowledge will cease when Christ returns, but that love will continue. Therefore, we should not try to attain life from things that will not last. Included could also be things such as right doctrine and ethics. Greg made a point to emphasize that all these things are important, but that they only have lasting significance to the extent that they are being done out of love for the purpose of furthering love. If this is not the case then these “good” things are worthless. In fact, they become idols that keep us from God. Instead, our significance most fully come from Jesus.
Second, love is most important in the Christian life because it is stable. It is the one constant of the Christian life that we can live in and give to others no matter the circumstance. Greg shared his own personal example of speaking in tongues. He speaks in tongues in his private prayer time, but since it does not happen consistently for him, it should not be the basis for his Christian experience. The same could be said of anything else in this world. As verses 9-10 illustrate in I Corinthians 13, we have partial knowledge of things in this world. Thus there is a natural sense of ambiguity in this life. We must give people space with their beliefs. Greg exhorted us to have strong convictions, but that we must remember to permeate them with love. The encouragement within an ambiguous and painful world is that God loves us with an unsurpassable love. And we are called to manifest this love to others. God’s love is something upon which we can rely because it never changes. Thus, we should be constant in our expression of love to others.
Third, love is most important in the Christian life because it brings eternal significance to all we do. As we love, we participate in the eternal life of God (see II Peter 1:4). Therefore, anything done in love has an eternal dimension to it. Furthermore, love cannot be kept in the abstract realm, but instead is rooted in particular, concrete expressions. That is to say, to love means action. This has important ramifications for the church. The power and function of the church is that together we can spread Christ’s love more than is possible individually.
Greg closed by saying that living in love is fundamentally about living unselfishly. Putting other people and their priorities above one’s own marks it. Greg reminded us of Jesus’ words: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). If this marks our living then we will leave a legacy that will never end.