The Greatest Thing in the World (as found in the Bible)

The Greatest Thing in the World (as found in the Bible) January 16, 2019
Corinthians
Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

To me, reading the Bible for inspiration can be like panning for gold. I can go hours sifting for insights and meaning only to come up empty. That’s why I prefer to have other, wiser souls point out the golden nuggets to me, because if you know where to look, there is wisdom to be found.

I recently uncovered an important Biblical insight in the book The Greatest Thing in the World, which draws it draws its message from the Apostle Paul and the New Testament’s First Corinthians. Not a new release, The Greatest Thing in the World was written in 1884 by a Scottish evangelist named Henry Drummond. By 1900, the book had sold 12 million copies, a remarkable figure for that time.

What was Drummond’s message? He preached that while there are many righteous characteristics we might possess, none is more important than love. What Drummond is talking about isn’t romantic or maternal love—he means active love as in loving kindness, loving patience, loving generosity.

Drummond believed that love was the truest path to God because “where love is, God is.” He wrote that if we lived an actively loving life, others would be attracted to us and influenced by our example. His life philosophy is summed up neatly in the following statement:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Rather than provide Drummond’s detailed interpretation of the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, I think it better to repeat the original Pauline passage, lightly edited, here. It comes from a letter Paul sent to the Corinthian church and its message is as resonant today as it was 2,000 years ago.

Paul and the Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I would be like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith so strong it could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 

 If I give away all I have, and am prepared for my own death, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.

 Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.

 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 

 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. But love will last forever.

 Faith, hope, and love, these three abide; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul signed off his letter in First Corinthians with the words, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus, Amen.”

After analyzing the text, Drummond came away believing that the “spectrum of love” had nine components and were the ingredients of the ideal woman or man. These components are:

  • Patience. Love understands and therefore waits.
  • Kindness. Love causes us to want happiness for those around us.
  • Generosity. Love means giving to others without envy or second thoughts.
  • Humility. Love, but keep good deeds to yourself.
  • Courtesy. Love means “not behaving unseemly,”
  • Unselfishness. Happiness is found not in getting, but in giving love.
  • Good temper. A symptom of our loving nature.
  • Guilelessness. Love causes us to be honest and open, without underlying motives.
  • Sincerity. Love means being true in your attitudes and intentions.

One important parting message from Henry Drummond has to do with how we will look back on our days when our own end is near. Those who have lived a life of loving activity, will have few regrets and an abundance of pleasant memories. In his words:

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love.

After reading Drummond’s book, I was inspired to read some words on love from my mentor John Templeton, who has written at length about the Christian love known as agape. From Sir John’s wise vantage point:

Love is an inner quality that sees good everywhere and in everybody. It insists that all is good, and by refusing to see anything but good, it tends to cause that quality to appear uppermost in other things. Love takes no notice of faults, imagined or otherwise. It demands nothing in return. It loves for the sake of loving.

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