"This, then, is the most excellent way, when love is the regulating principle of all our actions. And, in the outset, [Paul] proceeds upon this- that all excellencies are of no value without love; for nothing is so excellent or estimable as not to be vitiated in the sight of God, if love is wanting."
Miraim-Webster says that "vitiate" means "to make faulty or defective : impair<>
: to debase in moral or aesthetic status <a mind vitiated by prejudice>
: to make ineffective <fraud vitiates a contract>"
Without the full presence of love, in other words, Calvin suggests that everything is made faulty or defective, that everything is debased in moral or aesthetic status, and that everything is made ineffective. The lack of love is vitiating to everything else.
Perhaps a truer word can not be spoken. 1 john 4:8 says that God is love. If something is devoid of love, it is devoid of God, and therefore it is left incomplete or purposeless or in disrepair.
In a marriage, where love is left wanting, the relationship is vitiated. In a friendship, if love is left wanting, the communication and joy is vitiated. In a society, where love is left wanting, there is vitiation. People get broken by the lack of love. People are debased, pushed down, objectified, neglected and abused when love is lacking.
Think for a moment what love truly is: Love is patient, love is kind. Love rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, love always trusts, love always hopes, love always perseveres.
And think for a moment what love is not: Love is not boasting, love is not envious, love is not proud. Love is not rude, love is not easily angered, love is not a record-of-wrongs keeper, love is not delighting in evil. Love is not ever failing.
If only we embraced love, our lives would not be so vitiated.