Summary: An abridgment and adaptation based upon "The Greatest Thin in the World" by Henry Drumond, 1851-1897, dealing with the centrality of love in the Christian life and ministry
“Love Came Down On Christmas” 1 Corinthians13:1-13 (an abridgment and adaptation based upon “The Greatest Thing in the World” by Henry Drummond, 1851-1897)
Last week we met briefly to hear and consider the challenge of “Reach, Renew, Rejoice”. During the video we learned that while 90% of our grandparent’s generation attended church only 60% attend today, and that in the next generation that number may be 40%, and in their children’s generation, perhaps only 10%. Why is that so?
Methodists do have the answer, if we, as a denomination, can only but rediscover our roots. We have the answer because John Wesley, following the teachings of the Apostle Paul, knew the answer and taught it to the first Methodists. Here is the answer: God is love, and we as Christians are called to perfection in love.
All of this may sound a bit glib today. Somehow we have lost the meaning and power of that gospel, for, many of the current gospels are addressed only to a part of man’s nature. They offer peace, not life; faith, not love; justification, not regeneration. And men slip back again and again from such religion because it never really held them.
We have become accustomed to the idea that the greatest thing in the religious world is faith. That great word has been the keynote of the Protestant faith for centuries ever since the time of Luther. It was not, however, the keynote for the founder of the Methodist movement who wrote: “Correct doctrine is but a tenth part of true Christianity.” If we have become accustomed to looking upon “faith” as the greatest thing in the world, well, then, we are wrong. In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes without a moment’s hesitation, “now abideth faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”
There is a great deal in the world that is delightful, beautiful, and important, but it will not last. The only truly enduring things, according to Paul, are these: “faith, hope, and love.” But the chief among these things is love.
Some think the time may come when two of these three enduring things will also pass away—faith into sight, and, hope into fruition. Paul does not say so. But what is certain is that love must last because, as John points out, God, the Eternal God, is love. That being the case, love is superior even to faith. That is the gospel as preached by John Wesley. That is the gospel preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. And we must re-discover it if our churches are to become meaningful and enduring for future generations.
If a person loves others, such a person would never think of telling others not to steal or bear false witness against his neighbor because how could a person steal from those he loved! It would be superfluous to beg him not to bear false witness against his neighbor. If he loved him, it would be the last thing he would do. And if a person loves others, we would never dream of urging him to not covet what his neighbors have. He would rather they possessed it than himself. In this way “love is the fulfilling of the entire law.”
The Apostle Paul contrasts love with other things that people think much of. He contrasts love with eloquence, writing “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” He contrasts love with prophecy, mysteries and faith. Love is greater than faith, because the end is greater than the means. The purpose of faith is to connect the soul with God. But the object of connecting man with God is that we might become perfected in love, even as God is love. Love, therefore, is obviously greater than faith. “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” writes Paul.
Someone once said, “The greatest thing a person can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children”, but, this does not just mean that we ought to excel in charity. For, as Paul has written, “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor… but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Love is greater than charity because charity is only a part of love, one of the innumerable avenues of love. The spectrum of love has many ingredients, including, as Paul points out: Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility, Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good temper, Guilelessness and Sincerity.
We say that “love came down at Christmas” referring to our Lord. We say also that he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father. That is why we say love came down at Christmas. It is because God is love, and that love came down in Jesus at Christmas.