Reflections: February 16, 2021
Tuesday of Quinquagesima
By Jacob Ehrhard
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Theology should cultivate love. Love is the heart of the Gospel. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). All theology (or God-talk) must be talk about love.
But that's not necessarily the case. In fact, Paul indicates that it's quite possible to prophesy, to delve into divine mysteries, and to believe the incredible, but to lack love. How does this happen?
Love is the greatest of the Christian virtues. "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Elsewhere, Paul writes that love is the summary and fulfillment of the Law (Romans 13:8-10). But ironically, it's the exclusive focus on the Law that empties theology of love.
The Law demands love--love for God and love for your neighbor. But the best the Law can do is tell you what to do; it can never make you love doing it. For that, you need something more. For love, you need the heart of theology.
Love is the summary of the Law, but it is the full content of the Gospel. Paul says that the Law is fulfilled by love. Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).
To restate Paul's claim in 1 Corinthians 13: If you can do all theology, but don't have Jesus, you are nothing. However, even if your prophecies are way off, and if your understanding of divine mysteries is confused at best, and if your faith doesn't exactly move mountains, but you have Jesus, you are everything. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Where charity and love prevail There God is ever found; Brought here together by Christ's love By love are we thus bound. ("Where Charity and Love Prevail" LSB 845, st.1)
-Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church and School in Chicago, IL.
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