Thursday, October 27, 2011

Devotions Over Dishes

Several months ago, I printed out 1 Corinthians 13 and put it on the window over the sink, with the intent of committing it to memory. I'm at the sink (nearly) every day, sometimes for hours--with "nothing" to do (um, besides washing dishes)... so, I figured, this should work splendidly.

Well, I still haven't memorized it. However, I did discover something: when one stares at the same chapter of the Bible, even if it's one you've heard approximately 15,237 times, you will learn new things from it, and things that used to confuse you will start unraveling themselves in your brain and begin to transform into something that makes beautiful sense.

Thus was the case with myself and the said chapter in Corinthians. The part about "Love is" and "Love is not" seemed to make sense, for the most part. But then there's the part where it starts talking about prophecies and stuff, and about face to face... and... huh? I thought we were talking about... love?

It has always confused me.

But in the hours I spent at the sink (and at other times, I'm sure) it started making sense.
Love never fails. . . .
See, God is love. (Rebeka tells me I don't have to say "obviously" because everyone already knows I state the obvious... anyways, in this case, we needed to start with that bit of obviousness.) And God is eternal--so, since God IS love, love is eternal. To put that another way, love is of God... hence "love never fails." It isn't that our human love will never fail: just that love itself will never fail, since God won't. (and can't.)
. . .But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; . . .
Prophecies aren't always right (unless of course they were real prophecies from God)... sometimes they fail. Or sometimes they are misunderstood. They are just a prediction... they aren't anything in and of themselves. And there will come a time when there is no need for prophecies. Hence... "they will fail."
. . .whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”. .
Our human knowledge is imperfect... we don't really know. We can learn... and we can think we know things about God... but we really don't know.
. . .For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . .
At this point, here on earth, it's all in part.
10 But [again, "but" is such an awesome word sometimes] when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. . . .
Someday... oh, someday! We will KNOW! And all this partial knowledge here... will be gone. It will be of no worth to anyone... it will be completely eclipsed by "that which is perfect."
. . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. . . .
Face to face! *shakes head* I can't really fathom that... It's too wonderful.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. . . .
Wow... Think about that. We'll get to know Him like He knows us!
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The first two are human virtues, in a way. God doesn't have faith: He already knows what's going to happen. He doesn't have to "wait and see" or "trust" for anything. And it's very similar with "hope" as well.

But love... love starts with and is God.


  1. When interpreting this passage, it's helpful to look at the context. The previous chapter begins, "Now concerning spiritual things [1], brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant." He goes on to talk about prophecy, tongues, and spiritual gifts in general ... and then begins this beautiful discussion of love by saying, "... But strive for the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." What he's saying is that love is an even greater and more desirable gift than prophecy and tongues, which I understand the Corinthians had been squabbling over.

    ([1] This is traditionally translated "spiritual gifts", but based on what I've read it's literally "spiritual things". The Corinthians apparently, almost like proto-Gnostics, thought they knew all about "spiritual things" and that because of this, and because they had what they considered the "greater gifts" of prophecy and tongues they didn't need to be bothered by things like love, obedience, and so on. So Paul is saying that "about these things you've boasted about knowing all about, brothers, I don't want you to remain ignorant ...")

    I don't yet understand why hope will not pass away; Paul's inclusion of it in his list of gifts that will remain when everything else fades away when perfection comes indicates that I don't really understand what he means by "hope". But I think I understand why faith is included, so I'd like to offer a correction to your final statement: I don't think faith is a "virtue". I think that, like love, faith is a "gift"---something that we cannot have or develop on our own, but that we have because God gives it to us---and that God has perfect faith. For us, faith is trust: trust that God will do as he has said, based on the fact that in the past God has always kept his earlier promises. Here on earth, our trust isn't perfectly certain, because we sometimes can't see how God can keep his promises---but when perfection comes, and "we shall see him as he is", we will be perfectly certain that he will keep his promises because, again, "we shall see him as he is."

  2. And interesting fact is that God is love, and yet He cannot have faith or hope. Both of those are virtues and gifts which are predicated on our finite nature.

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Hope is a desire for and commitment to something which you cannot see. Faith is the living out of that hope in the now.

    God is eternal, and all-knowing. He can have neither. But through us having them through His Spirit, we can taste of His sublime eternity. A paradox, but a beautiful one.

    Love is the summation of all gifts which are given. They are all to be used in love and through love and for love. They are sub-categories, tools, if you will, of love.

    Which is why when some gifts pass away and fail (meaning to go away) because their time has passed, love still remains. Love always remains.

  3. I disagree with the assertion that God doesn't have faith. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for", but that is not the definition of faith. As I said in my earlier comment, faith is trust, for us namely trust that God will keep his promises to us. It's quite clear to me that God the Son has faith in his Father; I don't know what form faith takes in God the Father and God the Spirit. But in any case, God, having perfect knowledge, has perfect trust.

    I also suspect, given this passage, that God also has hope, but since (like I said) I don't understand what hope could look like "when perfection comes", I have no idea what divine hope could mean.