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Faith Working Through Love

I loved chemistry in high school. Depending on the day, chemistry was one part clear and present danger, and two parts awe at the universe’s perfect design. Chemistry also schooled me on what it means to “put away childish things.” On the first day of pre-college chemistry, the beloved teacher who for three years taught me everything I knew about chemistry declared it wasn’t all totally true. Just enough of the truth our young minds could comprehend at the time.

Paul’s teaching on love reminds me of that. Many of us have put away our childish ideas about love. We’ve noticed our relationships go better when we apply the practical wisdom in 1 Corinthians 13. But why is love “the greatest of the spiritual gifts”—the one thing that when lacking in the church and in the family renders everything else meaningless? Because true love is meant to make us one with the object of our love, so that grace can work.

Paul shows how this works in his discussion of forgiveness in 2 Corinthians 2. Real love binds us to others so their joys and sorrows become ours, and our needs and burdens become theirs. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians that a loveless person “hates his own flesh.” When you are tied to another, the grace you give others produces grace for yourself. When you belong to each other, the mercy you give others in a fallen world creates the grace you’ll receive when you fail, too.

That’s how belief in Christ can be summed up as “only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

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