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Seeing in a Mirror Dimly

July 31, 2013

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 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. 12 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.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

This is a VERY popular passage (especially vv.  4-7) for weddings. It is almost as if it is air-lifted off the page of 1 Corinthians 13 and given a new meaning. What I mean by that is that I have heard this passage preached about 262 times about how this is what perfect love between a husband and wife looks like. While this passage does not deny that we are to love (v. 2), it does not hold our love up as the gold standard. Many a marriage and relationship fall apart because human love is not always patient or kind or enduring. It is fickle and imperfect. When we think it is anything but that, we really are “reasoning like a child” and forgetting that we currently “see in a mirror dimly.”

I love this passage because it points us to the “already/not yet” reality of this lifetime. We experience the patient love of Christ through our spouses, but it is never perfect. We see love that rejoices in truth, but it is always stained to some degree by a fascination with falsehood. What we see now is partial, which will pass away (v. 10). What will come is the perfect. What hope that produces! The intense affection, trust, and respect I feel from my wife, Sarah, is only a partial, dim reflection of what the perfect “face to face” love of Jesus will be like in heaven or when he returns to his renewed creation. This does at least two things for me:

  1. It helps me not look to people for the ultimate fulfillment of my deepest longings. Sarah will meet some of my longings for fidelity and love in this lifetime, but they will be partial fulfillments in until I meet the one who gave his life for me in perfect love.
  2. I helps me to have hope when love is imperfect. If you have lived on this earth more than a few minutes, you have experienced imperfect love. It can be devastating at times, and should be. But the eyes of faith are those that recognize their current sufferings as nothing compared to surpassing glory of knowing and loving Christ Jesus. How wonderful it will be when the mirror is no longer dim, but is bright as we see the one in who we place our hope face to face.
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