There’s a 1956 song sung by Teresa Brewer that goes, “We belong to a mutual admiration society, my baby and me.” We all love mutual admiration societies. We want friends that think like we do. We like to laugh together. We enjoy not having our opinions challenged too vociferously.
A few months ago, St. Paul’s words from his first Epistle to the Corinthians came to mind and changed my world. “ And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
There is a faith. There is a hope. Paul was sure faith and hope in Christ is the answer that assures us of life. I sincerely believe that too. But Paul tells me that above faith, above hope, the greatest is love.
In other words, Paul is saying to me, “Phil, if you really have your faith down pat, you will be an example of love to the world. Love is the proof of the genuineness and perfection of your faith.” A deep knowledge of my faith is not the perfection of faith. Love is the perfection of my faith.
If I want people to believe my faith, I’d better sincerely, kindly, openly love them first. Love, introducing people to Christ’s love, not my love, is the proof that my faith is worth living. Christ’s love, not my faith, needs to be first.
Christ exemplified this perfectly. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Christ loved me while I preferred sin to love.
Christ wants us all to believe in Him but He didn’t just hang with people who believed in Him. He wasn’t looking for a mutual admiration society to the exclusion of others.
Both Matthew and Luke tell us Christ’s enemies called Him a friend of sinners because He dined with sinners so often. But Christ did so to capture their hearts with His love, not because He agreed with their sin.
That’s what I’ve learned. Faith isn’t first about getting people to know faith. Faith is first showing people that my faith in Christ has taught me to love others as unconditionally as Christ did. That’s the greatest and the hardest thing to do.
Christ did not come with a sword to beat us all into submission. Since He is love, He revealed His true self, Love, to everyone. His message was simple. He gives us all a choice. If you want eternal life, true eternal love, believe in Him. For people to believe in Christ, I need to come across as a kind, forgiving, accepting, understanding lover. I am learning we are called to plant the seed of love and let the Holy Spirit nurture their faith.