1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as “The Love Chapter”; perhaps it also should be known as “The Knowledge Chapter.”
At just about every wedding that I have ever attended, including my own, much of 1 Corinthians 13 is quoted:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. …It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Wedged in between Paul’s amazing words about the primacy of love, are equally profound thoughts on knowledge. These verses always seem to get skipped when “The Love Chapter” is read at weddings:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully. I Corinthians 13:11-12a
Paul put childish ways behind him. And yet he still sees “but a poor reflection!”
Paul’s limitations in knowledge, and ours, are the result of more than just limitations in reasoning. We are finite beings, living at a specific time and in a specific place in history. And we are trying to understand an infinite God. Small wonder that we only see “but a poor reflection.”
I was recently challenged by an assertion that I read in a book that really brought this concept into focus. The author suggested that Paul thought that the world was flat. My modern mindset recoiled at the notion: How could someone as intelligent as Paul believe that the world was flat? But Paul lived at a time when a flat world was the prevailing scientific theory of the day. In fact, an accurate view of the Earth’s place in the universe did not become generally accepted for another 15 centuries. And when it did, it caused many a theologian to reconsider what beliefs were essential to their faith.
What did this mean for Paul? The poor reflection was poor indeed when you consider the state of our knowledge today compared to the time that he was alive. But, the reflection was good enough. Apparently an accurate understanding of astronomy was not at all necessary for Paul to understand who Christ is and what he is offering all of us.
More to the point, what does it mean for me? It’s easy to expose the limitations in knowledge of those who have gone before us and point out the flawed conclusions they have drawn as a result. Compared to an infinite God, I can only guess that my limited knowledge has resulted in flawed conclusions as well. What wrong assumptions am I making given that I see “but a poor reflection”? Are there areas where my limited knowledge results in poor assumptions about the nature of who Christ is?
I desire to know you more. I wish to love you with my heart, soul, and MIND. Show me who you are in even greater clarity and rid me of flawed assumptions that obscure your true nature. Amen.