You have probably heard these words from 1 Corinthians 13:13 often enough, if not many times: “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love”. Throughout the centuries, faith, hope and love or charity, have been labeled the three virtues of Christianity, though in essence, they are the virtues of every spirituality.
Speaking about her recent book, The Law of Divine Compensation, Marianne Williamson remarked: “There is only one problem, deviation from love; and there is only one solution, return to love”. She is also quoted saying, “love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn”.
Actually we are born of love because God, our Creator, is love. Everything else, including fear, hatred, selfishness, pride, is acquired in the society and environment we are reared in. Infants don’t have to learn love, they respond to it, instinctively, because they come into the world with it.
Of the three virtues, therefore, love is the greatest because it is our being. It is more about being and less about doing. Indeed, as Marianne points out, there is an imbalance, a disconnect, disorientation, a distortion, and everything that is wrong when we deviate from love. Wars and bloodshed among nations and on our streets, hunger in the midst of abundance, fear and distrust of one another – everything that is wrong in society is a result of deviation from our being, deviation from love.
Again, love is about being, and less about doing. In the reading from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Paul lists some of the good things -very good things, indeed – that we may want to do: Good economics and planning, good policy development, excellent preaching and teaching – all the good doing, if they deviate from love, if they are motivated by simply planning devoid of love – will not correct the ills of society.
In Paul’s own language, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I my boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (verses 1-3).
As we struggle to understand the nature of violence in our society, it is wise to seek to return to our being. As we fight injustices and deprivation, let us seek to return to our being. In seeking security in our homes, streets, schools, malls and places of worship, let us seek to return to our being.
Indeed, there is only one problem, and there is only one solution.