The Greatest is Love

I Corinthians 13:1-13

by Sergio Arevalo

February 12, 2017

Santa Ana United Methodist Church

Santa Ana, CA

INTRODUCTION

Our passage today is found in I Corinthians 13:1-13 and I am reading in the New International Version:

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! This month we are celebrating Valentine’s Day, others say, Happy Hearts Day. But what’s the background of this celebration? I lifted the following information from the popular Wikipedia:

Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine,[1] is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.

Several martyrdom stories associated with the various Valentines that were connected to February 14 were added to later martyrologies, including a popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome which indicated he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine’s_Day).

Based on the background or history, Valentine’s Day was based or founded on love. But what is love? Love is self-giving. Love is forgiving. Love is good affection. Probably everyone of you has his/her own definitions of love.

I asked several persons and I asked “What’s the meaning of Valentine’s Day for you?” Here are some of their answers:

  • “As for me, Valentine’s Day is important for lovers as well as for those who value love and appreciate their loved ones. A time of expressing how much we care” (Dr. Eunice Mercado).
  • “God is love” (Rose Bunagan, Mary Jane Oro).
  • “Valentine’s Day is a commemoration and celebration of an intimate love and intimacy of two lovers. A given time to share their love” (Arnel Villareal).
  • “Valentine’s Day is also ‘forgiveness’ to the one you love (Joseph San Juan).
  • Victory of marriage challenges, Acceptance of imperfections, Love unconditionally for better or worse, Endless support to husband or wife, Nurturing Relationship through dating, Trust is accompanied by love, Intimacy with Christ is the center of marriage, No blaming game if someone fails, Exert effort to develop a longtime partnership” (Benjamin Joaquin Libiran).
  • “Nothing because it’s everyday for God and anyone you care about you show it by getting a long spending special time. Me don’t need a day to be told to do it don’t need gifts or candy cards anytime you want to from your heart” (Katie Thompson).
  • “Couples coming together to appreciate the significant other. But Valentine’s Day is a day that is overly promoted and everyday should be day to celebrate your loved ones not just on Valentine’s Day” (Jasmine).
  • “Growing up I thought of it as the day you let your secret love know how you feel. Now I believe it’s a money market day: cards, flowers, candy, etc. I think you should love as much every day; flowers help” (Susan).
  • “Valentine’s Day for me means lip biting, hair pulling, love making and wine tasting with chocolates and flowers” (Jocelyn).

Another related questions are: How can we love the unlovable? How can you love them if they did you injustices? How can you love them if they don’t care about you? How can you love somebody if he/she cheats you? How can you love him/her if he/she hurt you?  As a human being, you might say you want to kill the person, or retaliate with hate and injustice. I cannot blame you.

However, if the grace of God is with us, it will soften our hearts and help us to forgive and love the unlovable. It is like dry field that needs rain to soften the dry soil, and when it is soft already, that’s the time to sow it. Afterwards, the farmer will plant new seeds. After sometime, the seeds will sprout, and will grow into new plants and new beings!

Valentine’s Day is not complete and meaningful without genuine love. As our passage says, “13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

We cannot love if our hearts are dry like the dry field. We need the grace of God to soften our hearts and prepare to love again amidst hate, injustices, cheating, lies, and pain. If the grace of God is within us, then this kind of love will be shown in us,  since love is “patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”

 

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