Just suppose that I were fluent in the many languages of humankind, and in the discourse of angels for good measure. If I were not additionally blessed with the gift of love, my eloquence would amount to no more than the boom of a gong or the clash of a cymbal.
Or imagine that I had prophetic powers, knowledge so vast that I could resolve profound mysteries, and enough faith to move a mountain. In the absence of love all this too would count for nothing whatsoever.
And if I went so far as to give away my entire possessions to feed the poor and even sacrificed my body to the flames, it would not benefit me in the slightest unless love was my compelling motive.
For love is long-suffering and abounds in kindness. It is not arrogant or boastful. Love does not behave rudely. Neither self-serving nor quick to take offence, love never thinks the worst.
Love derives no satisfaction from human shortcomings. Rather it is glad when integrity and truth prevail. Love copes with everything that comes its way. Its faith, hope and endurance are unbounded.
Indeed love will endure forever. On the other hand the highest attainments of prophecy, speech and knowledge will all fade with time.
This is because our present knowledge and prophecy are less than complete. They will fall away when the glory of perfection is finally seen – much as in childhood I used to speak, think and understand as children do, but now as an adult I have grown out of my childish ways.
Similarly our vision is now blurred, as if we were peering at puzzling reflections in a distorting mirror. However, in due course we shall see with total clarity as though face to face.
Furthermore, whilst in this life my knowledge is limited, in the fullness of time I shall know absolutely just as God already knows me.
In short faith, hope and love are the three great timeless realities. And without doubt love is the greatest of them all.