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This is probably one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. My favorite ‘secular’ songwriter, Paul Kelly, wrote this song based on 1 Corinthians 13. Everyone in the world can relate to the message of love. While the chapter may not be central in the structure of the letter to the Corinthians, it is central to solving their problems.
It is not eloquence, wisdom, or spiritual gifts that are the true measure of maturity. Even faith and sacrifice are worthless without love. Prophecies and knowledge, which at this stage of life and eternity are only partial, will pass away when the fullness of perfection comes. As we grow older and look back on our lives, we realize how foolish and ignorant we were as children, as teenagers, even as young adults. Knowledge of God now, compared with full experiential knowledge of God then (i.e. in the future), is like the difference between getting to know a potential spouse through internet dating, and then actually living with them.
I never grow tired of the exercise of putting my name in the place of ‘love’ (and ‘it’) in verses 4-8a. Jessica is patient; Jessica is kind; Jessica is not jealous or boastful or puffed-up; Jessica is not rude or self-seeking; Jessica is not easily angered nor keeps a record of wrongs … Jessica bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jessica never fails. Try it with your own name. If you are anything like me, there’ll come a point, sooner or later in the list, when you know you do not measure up to being truly loving. But let that be a challenge to further maturity, rather than a rebuke or condemnation.
Faith, hope, and love remain, even though other gifts will pass away as unnecessary in Jesus’ kingdom where all suffering has ceased and knowledge is perfected. That is, faith in the sense of trusting in God; and hope in the sense of expecting good, will continue. But love, of which God himself is our exemplar, is the greatest of these three. He loves within himself as a trinity, and he loves his creation. May we grow into the likeness of the God of love.
Prayer: God, I love you as much as I am able, but you know it is not as much as I would like. Forgive me for my selfishness. Please help me to love others more, as I further experience your amazing love for me.