Greater than Faith and Hope

Reading: Matthew 25.31-36
In our second study we thought of the bright young lawyer - "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Lk. 10.25). He knew that he should love God and neighbour - but what was involved in practice? was there some programme, some set of rules he could follow?

I guess this is so with many of us. It is easier to talk of doing this or that than to get down to actually loving people. And, as Paul reminded us at the beginning of his chapter on love, the things we do don't finally count for so very much if we don't have love.

This is why Jesus chose the illustration he did. As the Jews thought of loving, it would have been a very "anyone-other-than-this-Samaritan" attitude. Do you feel like that about anyone? Perhaps this might be your learning-ground for true love. But it will drive you to your knees, as you sense the inadequacy of your own love and your need of the One whose Love knows no bounds.

Paul sums up his chapter of love, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13.13).

In today's reading, Jesus paints a picture of the last judgment. There is the Son of Man in glory to judge the peoples of the world. On what basis does he divide them, putting some on the left and some on the right?

Superficially, some might say it is to be on the basis of how good they have been. But, what a minute, what was the key to the queation of the lawyer, "What must I do…?" And what was the answer of Jesus on another occasion to the questioner who asked which was the great commandment in the Law (Mt. 22.34-40)? Love. Would we not expect to find the requirement of love at the heart of this judgment?

So in fact it is. Those described as righteous are not conscious of having performed meritorious works, whereas those described as "cursed" appear to be quite convinced that they, at least, deserve a place!

The truer the expression of love, the less self-conscious it will be of the true greatness of its service. Such love can only come to us as we constantly come to the God who is the only source of true love - God who is Love.

Yes, Paul tells us, faith and hope have their place in the final realities of Heaven, the things that ultimately remain when all else has passed. There will be new objects of trust and desire within the widening experience of life eternal.

But Love, both in this life and beyond, is the greatest of the three. Love is the character of God himself. It is the fulfilment of all that faith may endeavour or hope anticipate. It is love alone that gives value to human effort and meaning to human life.

So then, "these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

A group of Christian folk were discussing different Bible translations. Some preferred the literary eloquence of the King James, others the clarity of the more recent translations. One member of the group, who had been listening silently, added, "I like my mother's version best - she's translated it into life!"

We can't do without translations into our own language. But how we need, each of us, a life-translation of God's Word! How especially is this true as we think of this grand chapter of love that we have been studying together!

Significantly, Paul begins his next chapter, "Follow the way of love…" (1 Cor. 14.1). But remember - we can only do this through the God of Love!

PRAYER: God of Love, my Father, so little of true love is in me, your child. Make me new. Let your character of love be found in me. For the sake of your Son Jesus, in whom alone your love has been completely lived in this world, Amen.

Full but Empty

The world is full -
the tongues of men and angels,
prophets of doom and hope,
people of science and knowledge,
of integrity and cleverness,
and philanthropists.

This world is starved
for love.

The values of this age
will crumble
and decay.

Only Love -
the eternal Love of God

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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