Faith, hope, and love make up the three theological virtues. And as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, love is the greatest of the three (1 Cor 13:13). Love never ends (1 Cor 13:8). It is the virtue that God calls us to forever.
Despite the high status that love enjoys in Scripture, we sometimes overlook its importance because we undervalue love. And this is particularly true of me. I love right belief and doctrine. But sometimes my good theology amounts to nothing because I lack love (1 Cor 13:2).
Lest someone see in these words an overly sentimental view of love, however, remember that the God who is love is also thrice holy (Isa 6). His love cannot be abstracted from his holiness. And this means that a loving Christian will exalt in the holiness of God as much as he or she does in the love of God.
With that said, I still wonder what would happen if we valued love more?
If we valued love more, would we be patient and kind with those with whom we disagree (1 Cor 13:4)? Would we overcome the “cage-stage” that Calvinists often go through?
If we valued love more, would we stop envying mega-church ministries and avoid boasting in our ministry or theological knowledge (1 Cor 13:4)? Would we become known as humble, loving servants of God?
If we valued love more, would we stop leaving arrogant and rude comments online (1 Cor 13:4–5)? Would we stop turning people away because of haughty attitudes?
If we valued love more, would we stop insisting on our own way of doing things (1 Cor 13:5)? Would we be more patient when someone does something that we know to be wrong?
If we valued love more, would we put to death irritability and resentfulness (1 Cor 13:5)?
If we valued love more, would we grieve over even our theological opponents when they fall in ministry (1 Cor 13:6)? Would we rejoice in the good of others (1 Cor 13:6)?
If we valued love more, would we bear hardships and difficulties with long-suffering (1 Cor 13:7)?
If we valued love more, would we be willing to believe the best in others, even our theological opponents (1 Cor 13:7)?
If we valued love more, would we become hopeful people who endure pressures from within and without (1 Cor 13:7)?
And much more could be asked here. Would love lead us to cover a multitude of sins in others, making us the kind of people who don’t hold grudges or bitterness (1 Peter 4:8)? Would the world know us and be drawn to the Gospel because of our love for one another (John 13:35)?
Love blooms everywhere in Scripture. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8) and the Bible is his book. And so it makes sense that love is the greatest of the virtues. As Paul writes, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:8).
So let us continue to elevate faith and hope. We confess Christ as saviour and we hope in his second coming. But let us also live as if love truly was the greatest theological virtue.
It is not about bringing faith and hope down. It is about bringing love to the apex from which point we can see the whole of the Christian life. “Beloved,” writes John, “let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
I wish I did not have to ask what would happen if we loved more. I wish I could say: here is what is happening because we love as we ought to love. But the day is still long. And my hope is that we will pursue love and good works so that in the years to come, we can say: the world knows us because of our love for each other.