What is the greatest?
I leave early from Sunday School because I’m involved in providing music for the church service, but as I tiptoed away from class this past Sunday, the teacher’s words etched into my brain as she explained this verse in I Corinthians 13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Paraphrasing here but, in heaven we won’t need faith because we will “know fully even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12). And in that place, all that we have hoped for will be fulfilled. It is only love that will continue eternal.
Already on my heart was a story that I had the privilege to be a part. Jerry for many years prior to covid time was a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital. He rotated with other pastors who took calls at night and on weekends to give the regular hospital chaplains a break. One Sunday he received a call that a woman in hospice care wanted to be baptized. Since the patient was a female, for propriety’s sake, I went with him.
That afternoon, we arrived at a modest dwelling. When the door opened to the small space, the furnishings were also humble.
But what was in no way modest was the sense of the Lord’s presence and the amazing love poured out in that place through the family members and the woman herself. It was almost palpable.
As we sat with this bedridden sweet soul, near the end of her earthly journey, Jerry spoke with her about her relationship with the Lord, and we saw her faith and how before she passed, she wanted to do what she had meant to do before. As he poured the water on her head, we were all in tears as we witnessed this beautiful thing. It seemed to me that tiny bedroom became the gate of heaven.
The experience gave me a greater understanding of how love is the greatest. There’s a cliché that goes “You can’t live on love.” But I’m thinking that maybe we can. The love that filled that home amid such suffering was sustaining and beautiful. Love is the most important thing to our earthly existence, and love will be with us in heaven, wrapping and filling us with God who is love. (I John 4:16).
Missionary Heidi Baker writes, “The love of God manifested through you is what people really need.” It's what the world is crying out for and it's up to us as believers to live it out.
The apostle John also wrote, "Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." It's a high calling, and sometimes challenging when the love is not returned, but God's love is unconditional and so should ours be.
So the greatest?
It's love. Now and always.