The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 13
"1 Corinthians 13," the teacher taught us, "is the definition of ideal love."
When I first encountered 1 Corinthians 13, they were pretty words from an abstract realm. There was nothing wrong with the words, but there was nothing real about them either.
Later on, those pretty words started to turn on me when another teacher made them into a checklist, sort of a law--The Ten Commandments of Love--that I could not live up to. Her uninspired teaching, mixed with my deeply ingrained perversity, had somehow managed to turn 1 Corinthians 13 into an indictment.
But I kept on; and the Holy Spirit stuck with me and taught me--just as he promised he would:
But you have had the Holy Spirit poured out on you by Christ, and so all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20/GNT)
And then miracles started happening. I shall never forget, on or about the tenth time through, when the words of 1 Corinthians 13 were transformed.
Miracles, when you meet them, are never as showy and glitzy as we imagine they will be. We look for the grand and complex and God delivers the understated and enduring. We look for fireworks and crescendo and God brings a baby in a manger.
My miracle happened when the Spirit repetitively embedded three little words from 1 John (1) into the text of 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude…"God is love…"
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth…"God is love…"
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…"God is love…"
Love never fails…"God is love…"
As word led to word, I had the most vivid impression that they were not forming ideas, but a Person.
I'd been led to believe that 1 Corinthians 13 was a definition of love, and that I wasn't fulfilling it. Then God taught me that Jesus is 1 Corinthians 13--and that He'd fulfilled it for me.
So as the Word turned into flesh, I was transformed, too. Nothing ever looked the same again:
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
If 1 Corinthians 13, as you read it, is still about an idea called 'love;' or if it's still a checklist showing where your love falls short--then you're the reader I was before I met my Miracle.
So don't despair. Just slide over to the book of 1 John. Sign on with the Teacher that we're promised in 1 John 2:20. Then go back to 1 Corinthians 13 and this time, as you read, listen for the instructions He'll be repeating from 1 John 4:16.
See what I mean! You just met my Miracle.
(1) 1 John 4:8, 16