Paintings: “Fides,” “Spes,” and “Caritas” all painted by 19th Century Painter Sir Edward Coley BurneJones.

…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is a popular word with perhaps a million different meanings in our society. However, for the Christian it is much more narrowly defined. Perhaps the best definition for Christian love can be found in scripture: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). In a world where people love each other often for fleeting and selfish reasons, Christ redefined love as enduring self-denial and self-sacrifice for the sake of God and others. This is why many of the greatest saints in history are often characterized by poverty and dedicated service. Like Christ they forsook the temptations of power, money, and fame for humble love and service to others. Ironically, this humble love is the greatest force in the world in God’s eyes. It is God’s own means of working in the world through Christ.

The Gospel’s transforming grace does not only affect the way we know the truth through faith, or be in the world patiently through hope. The Gospel moves us to act and these acts ought to be the outpouring of Christian love. Wilson therefore calls love the Christian way of doing in the world. One famous pagan observation of the early church, recorded by Tertullian, was “See how they love one another!” And Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Therefore the Christian life is utterly inseparable from works of sacrificial love. This is why love is seen as the sum of all the commandments and the chief of the theological virtues.