I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Julia Cooke (WITHIN Devo Contributor)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. 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. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
After my husband and I came home from our honeymoon this fall, we had the pleasure of reading the wedding cards we received from many of our friends and family. The above words—part of Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13—appeared emblazoned on the front of several of the cards. Both Christians and non-Christians alike sent us these verses as they wished us well in our new life together.
Which made me wonder: since when did 1 Corinthians 13 become appropriated by Hallmark?
Before we were engaged, my husband and I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 together. During our wedding ceremony, we recited it to one another before saying our marriage vows. To us, this passage has a personal meaning.
When we were first learning it, however, I remember swallowing verses 1-3 and thinking, when is this going to get all nice and fuzzy, the way I thought this passage was supposed to be (and the way I prefer my Scripture)?
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.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Burned? I was not expecting that, especially not in the middle of the supposedly lovey-dovey 1 Corinthians 13.
Soon, though, I began to value the significance of Paul’s illustrations in the passage. The apostle spends little time talking directly about the attributes of love, for they are simply too great for us to fully comprehend in this lifetime. As Paul writes about love, he seems to be saying, we can best write about this part of the nature of God by looking at it indirectly. We can at least recognize love by pinpointing what it is not—it is not irritable, resentful, arrogant, rude, pompous, spiteful. And many a man has given to the poor and been burned at the stake for a cause and yet had not a drop of the patience, kindness, and selflessness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Love never ends. 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.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
The only way to truly know love is if we pass through this life, and see it face to face. We will understand then how even now, though we only know in part, we are fully known by God.
It turns out, this passage has to do with a wedding—but it wasn’t the one between my husband and me, or between any two humans ever. It is the marriage of Christ and his bride, the church. I hope that my husband and I will attempt to reflect that eternal, incomprehensible love in the only way that we can now—dimly, as in a mirror.
Although they do not encapsulate the full scope of the magnificence of 1 Corinthians 13, the Hallmark cards that say “love is patient and kind” are still the dearest ones that I received for my wedding. Perhaps because, no matter how often they are repeated, these words hold the promise of what is to come.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13