Finishing out a series on the “Way to God” could only be done one way, and that is with love. The reason is simple: because Paul said so! Remember: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” This is why I wanted to put this last, but in a fundamental way it should have been both first and last, since our faith begins and ends in love.
It is out of Love that God created this world it, is out of Love that God gave his Son to this world as his own sacrifice, and it is out of Love that God continues to be involved in this world. If there were a pinnacle teaching in the bible, a verse that everything goes to and comes from, it is Leviticus (yes) 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.“
This Leviticus passage, which holds the highest of all importance because of its location and summary teaching, became the fundamental teaching of Christ and is the foundation that Christ gives in Mark 12:29-31 when he is asked what the greatest commandment is.
9 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
What I find interesting is that the hardest and easiest thing to do in Christianity is love. Think about it: with all four topics we have already been working through, each one we can genuinely find consistent impediments to; granted those are usually our own doing, but they are consistent.
Love can be easy, like the moments after birth when a parent instantaneously falls in love with their child, and later if we are so lucky to find someone that we fall in love with. Nevertheless, oftentimes the love we feel is temporary, like when that kid grows up and smashes the new car at 16 or your marriage goes into difficult times. And you begin to question the love and seek ways to love again.
The problem that we often face, and have been the basis for many horrid wedding sermons using 1 Corinthians 13, is that the love (philo) expressed in this passage has very little to do with the Love (Agape) that is expressed in our lives through God. This is agape love, which is a special love that is held, set aside for God. It is a love that transcends all things. This is opposed to the Philo love, which in biblical terms is an incomplete love.
However, just as the attaining of a perfect faith is not attainable for humankind, Neither is this agape love. Nevertheless, that does not mean we do not strive for it. In fact, if there is anything we ever should strive for as Christians, it is for learning and growing in love, a love that is truly the image of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen