Love never ends… or does it?
Contrary to Paul’s words here, often love is one of the first things to end. It seems that Love must make way in the face of our preferences, opinions and traditions. Like all good things, it seems all too easy for Love to come to an end. Bad things are so difficult to shake and refuse to stay gone. By contrast, good things have a tendency to slip through our fingers.
So how can Paul say that Love never ends and what does he mean?
Many in the Corinthian church were seeking greater status by using spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy to impress and even to put others down. In addition, they were claiming to have special knowledge that made them ‘spiritual’ and set them apart from the lesser, regular christians.
Paul will have none of it and one of the main thrusts of his letter is that the greatest knowledge one can have is Christ crucified and that truly spiritual people are those who live Spirit-filled lives. In many ways the letter builds to this chapter, where Paul shows these status-hungry christians the ‘more excellent way’. And of course this is the way of Love.
Prophecy, tongues and knowledge are not bad and Paul does not say to avoid them. However they do not have the eternal value of Love. They are good and valuable for a time but there is a reality that, just like for a child becoming an adult, some things are no longer needed.
Prophecy, bringing God’s word to His people, whether future warnings or present correctives, will no longer be needed, for the future will come into the present in an eternal enjoyment of life in the presence of God, as His people who have been fully transformed into the likeness of his Son. The work that God began in us will have been brought to completion.
Tongues, whatever your understanding of them, will no longer be needed, for their will be no language barriers, either between humans or between humans and spiritual beings, for we will see God face to face.
Knowledge, any kind of divine revelation, any kind of deeper understanding we may have (or think we have!) will become an irrelevance for we will all fully know, just as we are (already!) fully known by God.
Any spiritual gifts, talents or abilities God has given to us are good and should definitely be developed and used for the building up of His church to His glory. However we should keep them in proper perspective – they are tools for this life. Much eternal fruit may come from godly use of these tools but the tools themselves will not be needed in eternity.
Love, on the other hand, defines both how we will live this life and the next, and as such will never end.
In a season when much of our normal ministry is not possible, it is a fitting reminder that Love is always in season and is always an option for us.
Other good things may come and go but Love will never end.
These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
May we be people whose Love increases, even as many other things around us decrease.
May we seek what lasts!