1 Cor. 13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
It seems to be forgotten precisely what is meant by love when we talk about love these days. We think it is something that is more what we do for another. That is most certainly partially true but we mustn’t be satisfied with part-truths. Love is not isolated from belief either as many have come to concluding. Rather it believes all things. But this “all” is a much more exclusive “all”.
But when I say, all, do not suppose I mean things injurious also; for example, assisting a youth in a love affair, or whatsoever hurtful thing any one may beseech another to do for him. For such a person does not love, and this I showed you lately from the Egyptian woman: since in truth he only is the lover who seeks what is profitable to the beloved: so that if any pursue not this, even what is right and good, though he make ten thousand professions of love, he is more hostile than any enemies. (St John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on First Corinthians)
We see that a person basked in love treats one with kindness, puts the other first, does not insist on its own, believes all things that are true, holy, righteous, and good, it hopes for these things, for the good of the other. A person who is basked in love thinks on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). It “hates what is evil, clings to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). But love is not isolated from faith or hope. Rather, a mind that is basked in love indeed has both faith and hope for the time being. “Love believes all things, hopes all things”.
Love only believes the good things. Love is a perfected faith and a perfected hope. It does not believe that one who believes themselves to be a whore is a whore nor does it let such a one dwell on this nor does love dwell on this. The second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:29-30). We tend to forget to love ourselves. We look at our lives and we think ourselves completely and totally unloveable. And yet this is a grievous sin to make. The parable of the prodigal son that begins at Luke 15:11 is a parable not about us or the two sons in that story but rather is about the father and how he views both of his sons. Indeed, we can switch our characters from that of the runaway son to that of the arrogant-minded son quite a bit as often as windshield wipers change sides on a car. But the father in the story who depicts the God who is love is unchanging. He is always inviting both sons to the banquet, the banquet is not just for the runaway son but is also for the arrogant-minded one as well.
Love believes “all things” refers back to the fact that all are invited to that great banquet. Love, for now, includes both faith and hope. Love is not isolated from faith or hope but faith and hope are included and are a part of love. A genuine faith is a faith that works through love (Gal. 5:6). St Paul describes how much of the things we experience are not permanent. They fade. Love does not. Love is eternal. For love is not just simply an action, love is God and God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). God’s essence is love.
Now see that to act against love is to act against God. Let no man say, I sin against man when I do not love my brother, (mark it!) and sin against man is a thing to be taken easily; only let me not sin against God. How do you not sin against God, when you sin against love? Love is God. Do we say this? If we said, Love is God, haply some one of you might be offended and say, What has he said? What meant he to say, that Love is God? God gave love, as a gift God bestowed love. Love is of God: Love IS God. Look, here have ye, brethren, the Scriptures of God: this epistle is canonical; throughout all nations it is recited, it is held by the authority of the whole earth, it has edified the whole earth. You are here told by the Spirit of God, Love is God. Now if you dare, go against God, and refuse to love your brother! (St Augustine, Homily 7 on the First Epistle of John)
Tongues, prophecy, teaching, are not necessary. For often, we do not know at all quite what people need at each given moment in time. Does it always help to be the “human encyclopedia”? Perhaps the definition is not what is needed by the person. Perhaps the person is just simply confused. Reason does not always grant clarity to another either. Indeed, we must live in this state seeing through a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13:12) as we wait anxiously for the day when all will be made clear.
But if love is formed by both faith and hope why then do faith and hope eventually fade away as well? This is because the essence of both faith and hope, while a core part of love, are not the permanent aspects of love. On the contrary, we hope for that which we do not see (Rom. 8:25) and faith is conviction of things we do not see (Heb. 11:1). When we are able to see in full, there is indeed no need for faith and hope as parts of love any more. Rather, love no longer needs to hope or believe for now everything has been made clear and love has emerged victorious. Thus, love reigns superior and only those who live by love live by faith and those who live by faith abide in God. We must remember at all times to love. Believe what is righteous and true, reject any thought of evil toward our brethren for such is contrary to love, reject any thought that our brethren is the worst of all sinners for in fact we ourselves are (1 Tim. 1:15). But we must rejoice in truth and the truth is that we are invited to the banquet whether we think we are or not, whether we feel we deserve it or not. The truth is Christ himself come to rescue us. Come to suffer and die on the cross with us, as we were dying. There is no greater act of love than to suffer with somebody else, for that somebody else.