The Greatest of These

John Calvin on 1 Corinthians 13.7:

Love believeth all things—not that the Christian knowingly and willingly allows himself to be imposed upon–not that he divests himself of prudence and judgment, that he may be the more easily taken advantage of–not that he unlearns the way of distinguishing black and white. What then? He requires here, as I have said, simplicity and kindness in judging of things; and he declares that these two virtues are the invariable accompaniments of love. The consequence will be, that a Christian man will reckon it better to be imposed upon by his own kindness and easy temper, than to wrong his brother by an unfriendly suspicion.

One of the messages that has most impacted me in recent months was several weeks ago when my pastor preached through 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 in his series on spiritual gifts. Hearing him explain and apply the depth of Christian love was one of the more humbling (even humiliating) experiences I can recall having in years. Very seldom do I feel like a sermon examines me, but this is exactly what happened. It made me quiet (that is to say, it shut me up from self-righteous talk), aggravated my conscience, led me to repentance, and made me marvel at Jesus. As I grow older and by grace am able to subdue my flesh, big, obvious sins are less frequently found. But this only allows me to pay attention to the much subtler, and much more deadly, attitudes of the heart, which causes me to pant for deliverance from this body of death. Love eludes me. It isn’t my default setting. I’m frequently quarrelsome, sarcastic, wrongfully critical, and severe. I don’t believe, hope, or endure all things. I don’t consider others better than myself. I’m no Epaphroditus.

One of the Puritan prayers in The Valley of Vision says, “I long not so much to do, as to be; and I long to be like Jesus.” And if I’m going to be like him, I must love. I John 4:7-8 confirms this:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love.

So here is a severe warning: love is intricately interwoven with the new birth. If one doesn’t love, that one is not born again. I want so badly to image Jesus and be one who loves. To be one who is known for love, who genuinely considers others better than himself, and is willingly and joyfully a slave of all.

I long not so much to do, as to be; and I long to be like Jesus.