"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Who hasn't heard this familiar verse in this familiar chapter a thousand times? And yet, what does it really mean? What makes love greater than faith or hope? Why would Paul rank them like this?
I hadn't necessarily thought about these questions until my grandmother's funeral, when the officiating pastor referred to Martin Luther's insight on this verse. He pointed out this simple yet profound truth:
Love is the only one of these three that lasts eternally.
In this life on earth we need all three: Faith to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hope to trust that what we long for will come to pass, that the promises will be kept. Love for the One who first loved us, to enjoy Him and adore Him and exult in Him.
But in the age to come, eternally in Heaven, we will no longer need faith or hope! What we hoped for will be reality. We will see Jesus, not dimly through a mirror, but face to face! Everything we longed for will be fulfilled. All the promises will be proven true! We will love--better and more fully than we ever could here on earth--but we will not have faith or hope. Instead, we will celebrate and bask in the actual presence of the Father in whom we placed our faith, the Savior who was the ground of our hope.
The greatest of these is love.