Click here for the reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
The irony of this passage’s use at weddings is that marriages are among the good gifts of this life that will pass away along with prophecies, languages, and knowledge. The things now so highly and rightly prized are ours for a time and for a purpose. We have husband or wife to love and to cherish until death us do part. We have prophecy to proclaim the oracles of God as we find them in Scripture. We have languages to speak the Word of God in people’s own languages. We have knowledge to proclaim the knowledge of the Lord throughout the earth.
But this must all pass and shall pass. All this will be eclipsed. It will not be burnt up and destroyed, but it will be swallowed up and surpassed. Death will end along with all these things, when we are changed in the twinkling of an eye at the Lord’s command. I cannot fixate on my marriage or anything I have to exclusion of the love of God because everything except the love of God shall be subsumed. The weight of glory will overwhelm all else.
The reason love can bear and believe and hope is that only love knows what remains. Only love knows the fruitlessness of all effort apart from the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Only love comprehends how futile and petty our fixations and our resentments and our bickerings are. Only love recognizes that Christ shall truly be all in all, and for His sake, love believes and bears everything for the sake of and in view of the Day of the Bridegroom’s returning.
Paul’s words are not saccharine sentiments, tiresomely sweet and unnatural, wrapped in a sickly pink paper packet. His words flow easily and purely from love’s spring. In Christ there is already resurrection and life and perfection. In Christ there is already victory over sin and death, and in Christ death is already mocked. Knowing this, how can care and fixation and bickering and self-aggrandizement consume me? Am I Christ? Am I the firstfruits of them that sleep? No, we are in all things more than conquerors over sin and death and everything else solely through Him Who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
So love can be patient. Love can be kind. Love can believe and bear and hope. Love can wait as long as it has to. Love knows what’s coming and how partial and petty and light this life will prove to be when the weight of glory and the splendor of Christ enter in. Love knows we shall not all sleep but we shall all certainly at long last be changed. Then we shall know all as we are even now fully known by Him. Love knows Him, and love never ends.