The Greatest of These

We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” 

― W. Somerset Maugham

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

― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

It’s what motivated Professor Snape. It drove Frodo Baggins. It caused Bella to become a vampire. And it was the ultimate reason for Jesus to go to the cross. Love.

There’s no doubt. I’m slightly obsessed with this theme. This driving force behind life itself. It seems to be a central theme in so many stories and books and movies. Love is what motivated Professor Snape to play the role of double agent – without his love motivated actions, Harry Potter just wouldn’t be the story that it is. Love is what gave Frodo Baggins the strength and the drive that he needed to destroy the One Ring – love for his family, the Shire, and his friends. Without the love driven actions of Frodo the Lord of the Rings would not be the literary classic that it is. Love caused Bella to enter the unknown of being a vampire – and from it we engage in the story and screenplay of adventurous vampire love. Without the love He held for everyone who has ever and will ever live Jesus might not have had reason to endure the cross. Love drives us. It’s woven in throughout our culture in books, movies, and songs.
Not only does love motivate, inspire, and drive out actions, it is also essential to live. As a psychology student I have studied the theme of love as applied to child development, adult development, social interactions; the list goes on. Love surrounds us. It permeates us. And the truth is, we need it. Natural studies have yielded heart-breaking information. Children who grow up in orphanages often experince failure to thrive. And why? Because they don’t establish love based attachment that is essential for normal and healthy development. Failure to thrive. Just think about that. A life so severely affected because there was no opportunity for loving attachments. We need love. And not just as a child. Studies od adolescent and adult development yield information that loving relationships are essential for continued normal and healthy development. We don’t ever stop needing to be loved.
And yet love is often something that we refuse to give.
We hold our love inside, telling ourselves that we don’t need to give it out. We keep it to ourselves, believing that it’s better that way. That other people don’t really need it. If we don’t give out our love we minimize the risk of getting hurt. We use it as a weapon; if I withdraw my love from you I can use it to hurt you, when you do things that hurt me, make me angry, or cause me pain. We use it to mainpulate, to control; and suddenly something that is so essential, so pure and beaultiful becomes a thing that is twisted and used.
If love is essential to life, why do we withold, use, and abuse it?
And when you are a Christian love is all the more essential. The greatest of these is love. Not only did love inspire Jesus to bear the cross, he commanded us to live in love. But Christians can be those who use, abuse, and withold love more than those who don’t. We forget just how important love really is; and how we are commanded to live in it. We who know the ultimate source of love tend to hold on to it, to keep it to ourselves, and to refuse to share it. We fail to remember that we need to live it, to walk in in, to speak and breathe and let it be the reason for everything that we do.
When I got my tattoo – infinite love – I did it as a constant reminder of just how much God loves me. This year I have realized that in addition to receiving the love of God, I need to act in the power of that infinite love. God put a million doors in the world for His love to walk through, one of those doors is you. I love this song. It reminds me that I am one of those doors. And even when people hurt me, the truth is, I’m still called to love them. And what can my love do but help? Sometimes I am so angry at my father for the choices that he has made. But still, I am called to love him. And so now the heart on my neck serves as a reminder not only that God loves me, but that I need to live out His love for those around me.
Perhaps we all could take a bit of inspiration from our cultural tales of love. While they may be only fiction their themes ring true. Let love motivate you. Let love drive you. Let love be the cause for everything that you do. And never forget that the ultimate sacrifice that love has made.
So, Ellie, as you grow up I hope that you enjoy the tales of love and life as much as I do. And more than enjoying them I hope that you realize just how important love really is. Not only is it fun to read about love inspired adventures, to watch a love story unfold in a movie, or to sing about, but love is essential for life. People need love. And not just those who make you happy or who you like – even the ones who let you down, or who seem to be “unlovable”…they might be those who need it most. Always remember that not only does God love you, He wants you to share that love with everyone around you. Don’t hold on to it, give it out, live in it, speak and act in it. Afterall…the greatest of these is love.