The Spectrum of Love
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the famous Church theologians of the 13th century, came up with a ‘teleological’ argument, often known as the ‘argument from design.’ It discusses the philosophical existence of God and points towards purposeful creation. The Bible emphasizes that humans have a purpose and may discern God’s mind. We always desire to attain something good in our lives. To attain the highest possible standards in order to have a purposeful life, we grapple with a question: what is the summum bonum—the supreme good? i.e. the greatest thing in the world. According to medieval philosophy, Summum Bonum was considered ‘righteous living’ or ‘life led in communion with God’ or ‘having faith in God.
1 Corinthians 12:31b, Paul shows ‘the most excellent way,’ i.e., ‘Love’ which is beautifully elaborated in Chapter 13. He strongly felt that only love can unite God’s people. From verses 1-3, Paul contrasts Love with other things quite prevalent in the spiritual world. For him, love is superior to the speaking of tongues, prophesy, mysteries and knowledge, faith, doing good to others or even burning our bodies. Without love believers are spiritually empty, and they are governed by their emotions, not by the Spirit. Once Peter boasted his love for Jesus (Mt. 26:33-35) but later he denied Jesus three times. It was just emotional. Warren Wiersbe, “Spiritual gifts, no matter how exciting and wonderful, are useless and even destructive if they are not ministered in love.”
From vs.4-6, Paul gives an outstanding analysis of love. Isaac Newton in 1672 brought a breakthrough in the field of Physics when he passed the white light through the prism and this light split into different colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Similarly, when Paul passes the beam of love, through the magnificent prism of his inspired spiritual intellect, he gets nine ingredients that form the spectrum of love: – patience, kindness, not envious, humble, courteous, unselfishness, not irritable, guilelessness and sincere. These ingredients help believers be spiritually mature and insist that they move forward towards perfection. In The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond writes, ‘remember jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, bad temper, doggedness, resentment—these are the ingredients of this dark and loveless soul.’
From vs. 7-13, Paul defends love. He writes that prophecies shall fail, tongues will cease, and knowledge will vanish away, but the love will remain forever. Edward Irving (a Scottish clergyman) went to see a dying boy once, and when he entered the room, he just put his hand on the sufferer’s head and said, “My boy, God loves you,” and went away. And the boy started from his bed and called out to the people in the house, “God loves me! God loves me!” It changed that boy. Love puts quality into service, maturity into character and eternity into life. For D. L. Moody, “God hates the great things in which love is not the motive power; but He delights in the little things that are prompted by a feeling of love.”
The word ‘Maundy’ in ‘Maundy Thursday’ comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum,’ meaning commandment, which is rooted in Jesus’ commandment on love, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34). In the New Testament, agapē is the highest form of love. It is the sacrificial, unconditional love of God. The genuine love comes from God because God is love. As long we are close to God, His love will flow in us. The iron itself has no magnetic power of its own, but when it is in constant touch with the magnet in due course of time, it also becomes a magnet. Jowett writes: “When I am related to Christ when I dwell in Him, love is as surely born as beauty and fragrance are born when my garden and springtime is dwell together.” Henry Drummond says: If we read this 1 Corinth 13 once a week for the next three months, whole life will be changed. A man did that once and it changed his whole life. Will you do it? It is for the greatest thing in the world.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Richmond