Saturday, March 2, 2013


Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13

Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13

Hebrews 13:1 Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured—

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


Our culture is obsessed with love. Self-help books are eager to help us become "lovable" people. Musicians have found fame by singing about love. Television programs set us up to believe that love is an "anything goes" sort of thing. Celebrities move so quickly between lovers that we can't even keep up. We're confused by what love is: we use the same word to admire someone's new hairdo and to show the deepest feelings of our heart.

Most of us would say that all human beings have three basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing. People that study human beings and our behavior would add another need: we need to be loved.

What happens when we don't get enough love? We turn in on ourselves. It becomes harder for us to show other people that we love them. If it goes on long enough, we begin to believe that we are unworthy of being loved. When we aren't met with the love we need, we'll seek it out. We're left, as Waylon Jennings sang, "Looking for love in all the wrong places; looking for love in too many faces." Is there such a thing as love that withstands storm and fire, such a thing that demands more of us than what our world offers us?



According to 1 Cor. 13, love is the most important thing— more important even than faith.  Like a gentle stream that changes the shape of rocks, love has the power to alter who and how people are. Love seems to beget more love and promote healing, whereas anger seems to beget only more anger.

In saying that love is the greatest virtue, Paul offers us a truth that is not always easy to acknowledge. How easy it is to lose hope and faith when we are in the middle of a crisis! In the middle of a life storm, it feels like things will never get better and that God does not care about our pain. Hope and faith sure don't feel like life preservers then! Nevertheless, love can grab hold of our hearts even in the darkest of days.

Amazing things happen when love reaches out. We show love when we encourage a friend who is going through a rough time or take a meal to a neighbor who is sick. But such acts don’t really require much of us. What requires much more of us is living peacefully with those around us, people with whom we often strongly disagree.  Anybody who interacts with other people knows that love requires both work and commitment, and this is especially true in the church. One generation wants one thing; another wants something different. One group loves the red church doors; another thinks any other color would have been preferable. Some love the technology; others are certain that it was a waste of precious resources. Where is Christ in the midst of all that?

The writer of Hebrews will not allow us to be so thoroughly divided over the things that in the end do not glorify God. He challenges us to look beyond our differences to what we have in common: God's love for all. It is the basis for everything we do. Not only that, but it's the lifeline of everything that takes place in God's kingdom.

Love must be the basis for everything that we do. What happens when it isn't? When we make decisions outside of love, we can only think selfishly. When our worship is not rooted in love and passion for our creator, it becomes consumerist. We fight the worship wars, wondering, "What's in it for me?" instead of "Is this pleasing to God?" When our fellowship is not centered on love, we become gossipy and cliquish. We exclude others who are not like us instead of -bringing them into the family. When the ministries of the church become loveless, they become a checklist of ways that we might earn God's favor instead of an outpouring of gratitude for God's presence in our midst.



In Hebrews, we find that there are five essential qualities that reflect how Christian love behaves: brotherly love, hospitality, sympathy for those in trouble, purity, and contentment.

The writer of Hebrews wants to make sure we understand that love is an essential piece of our faith; that it runs deep enough to affect our behavior toward one another and toward God. Scripture says, "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (fames 2:17); perhaps the writer of Hebrews would say, "Faith without love misses the point all together." Paul puts it succinctly by saying, "Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). How then can we make sure that our faith is under the direction of Christ's love? The writer of Hebrews really only needs four words to tell us: "Let mutual love continue" (13:1). Everything else he says in these closing words goes back to that one idea.

In some ways, the call to love is much like the call to tithe. When we tithe, we recognize that God has blessed us. As a way of saying, "Thank you," we joyfully give part of it back. Implicit in the command to love is the conviction that God has already shown us tremendous love. As when we tithe, we joyfully give it back. We're called to give in trust. We're called to tithe, no matter our circumstances, believing that God will meet our need. We're also called to love, no matter our circumstance and regardless of whether we see eye-to-eye with someone else.

Rather than wondering if we've gotten the love we need, we ask ourselves if we've shared the love that someone else needs. The Beatles famously sang, "All you need is love." It might not be everything we need, but it's not a bad place to start.



Name an experience in which your actions did not flow out of love. What were the consequences? What did you learn from the experience?

Should Heb. 13:5 guide our decisions about financial matters?  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’"

 In what ways might you apply these words to financial decisions in your life?  In the life of the church?

Philadelphia means "City of Brotherly Love." What would a community built on mutual love look like? What is the most significant first step toward building such a community?


Living God, make our love genuine. Even as we acknowledge our own need for love, remind us that others need it too. Teach us to reach out beyond ourselves, showing your radical love to all your children, even when it is inconvenient or pushes us further than we'd like to be pushed. May your love spill over onto everything we do.  Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2012 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.

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