“. . . the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13
It may have been the most profound question I have ever been asked. Not long after learning that he and his wife Sharra were expecting their second child my son Cecil came to me with a deeply concerning question. “How does it work, Dad?” he asked. “While I am excited we are having another baby, my love for Zoey (their first child) is so deep, will I have enough love left in me to love another child?” His question rocked me back on my heals. I had never heard it asked before, at least not out loud. I knew, of course, the answer would come when he held that new infant in his arms for the first time, but he needed a more immediate response than something months away. So, I tried to explain to him that our capacity to love, like God’s love for us, is far greater than anything we can ever imagine. That seemed to make sense enough to at least get me off the hook.
Almost a dozen years have now passed since that encounter, but it has crossed my mind hundreds of times. First of all, it speaks volumes about my son’s heart that he would consider such a profound question, then have the courage to raise it in such a plain-spoken manner. It also made me realize how often I have questioned my own capacity to love, not only for a second child, but for one, two, three, four, then five grandchildren; for new friends we’ve made along life’s journey; even for new pets we have adopted after loving the previous ones so deeply. I am sometimes amazed by my own capacity to love.
Just as I knew would happen, Cecil’s concerns vanished several months later when he held his new baby girl in his arms for the first time. But his question is still a profound one because at its deepest level it points to the secret of an abundant life. First consider that if God’s love is limitless and unconditional, and if we are created in the image of God, do we not then have the capacity to love without limits or conditions too – that is, if we allow ourselves? Jesus was plain-spoken when he explained the greatest commandment, and the secret to an abundant life – simply this, love God and love your neighbor. So, it doesn’t really matter what we accomplish in life, according to the Apostle Paul, how many languages we speak, how much knowledge we gain, how much money we make, how many possessions we acquire, even how much we give away or how much good we do, it means nothing without love. Among all the things we do in this life, says Paul, by far “. . . the greatest of these is love.”