1 Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is the greatest and the most costly Christian virtue, and it is the way in which we most imitate God. God does not need fortitude, temperance, or prudence because he is omnipotent and omniscient. But God is love. We could cultivate all of the other virtues, but if we miss love, all of our hard work is for nothing.
As with the other virtues, Christian love is not a feeling. It is a condition of the will that is developed through habit and prayer. If I want to love my neighbor, I don’t need to consult my feelings about him. Instead, I need to examine my actions toward him. Am I actively seeking my neighbor’s good? The best way to love my neighbor is to act as though I do. The feelings will come later, perhaps.
Christian love is costly because it requires us to put to death our own will. This means we will have to love others even when it is extremely painful – the humility of loving an enemy, the anguish of loving a wayward child, the misery of loving an unfaithful spouse. These moments when love seems impossible are also the times when we most reflect Christ who, out of love for us, suffered death on a cross – even while we were sinners (Rom. 5:8).
Finally, love is the greatest virtue because it is lasting. When Christ returns, we will no longer need faith or hope. Then we shall see the One whom we love, who is Love.
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