PASSAGE: "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13).
COMMENT: This beautiful chapter is one of the best known in the entire Bible. It represents a ringing affirmation that love is not an obligation to be fulfilled or a goal to be achieved. It is the truth of who we truly are.
We are all one with God, expressions of the divine, and the nature of the divinity we share is love. Paul here makes it crystal clear that even his own missionary work is meaningless if it is not being carried out in an energy of love. Spiritual characteristics—prophecy, speaking in tongues, religious training and knowledge—will come and go; they will last at best no longer than the span of a human life. Love endures forever. Love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." This is tricky. It surely doesn't mean that anything goes when it comes to living a life and relating to others. Love may “believe all things,” for example, but it surely does not believe in its own opposite—a fear-based power of hatred. Yet love recognizes love in even the darkest of moments or experiences. Love knows that there is no place where love is not; others may be ignorant of its presence, but it is as omnipresent as the Power of God, because, indeed, it is the Power of God—everywhere present, always eager to express, available to us as we are willing to see it and claim it.