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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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William

Abou Ben Adhem

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James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)

 

ABOU BEN ADHEM (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw—within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich and like a lily in bloom—

An angel, writing in a book of gold.

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the presence in the room he said,

‘What writest thou?’—The vision raised its head,

And, with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’

‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still, and said, ‘I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’

 

The angel wrote and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

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