Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 20 2013 - 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13 – The call of unfailing love

What can one say about 1 Corinthians 13? I wonder what the argumentative and fiercely competitive Corinthians made of Paul’s words. Compare his description of them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 with what he says here:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (vv. 4-7)

This, says Paul, is the shape of Christian maturity. This is the foundation and fashion of the world to come. This is the love of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ. This is the character that the Spirit of God is seeking to form in us. This is what it means to be a truly spiritual person. This is the calling of God upon our lives.

These words are truly awesome. They fill me with joy at the beautiful picture of God’s purpose for our lives. They fill me with shame at the recollection of just how much and how often I fall short of all that I should be. These are words that demand to be committed to memory, written upon the heart and, most of all, to be lived out in daily life. It’s a calling with which my flesh cannot comply. All too often I am impatient and concerned to have my own way. I can be envious of others and so pleased when others speak well of me. I have learned to hide my anger well, but it can flare and burn inside and smoulder on for days or even years. I do not find it easy to forget the wrongs I believe that I have suffered. I need forgiveness, and I need transformation. The Spirit of the risen Saviour can alone fill me with the love of Jesus and make me like him.

And this makes what Paul has to say next even more wonderful:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away… For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (vv 8,12).

Love never fails. God’s love never fails, neither does he give up on us. He has begun a work in us by his Spirit of transforming us into the likeness of his Son, the Man of Love, and he will not leave it half done. He will not allow our stubbornness, our weakness, our sin to defeat his purpose: love never fails. He will continue to love us and work in us and for us until we stand with Christ in glory and see him face to face and know as we are known.

And he calls us to show that sort of love towards others; a love that never gives up on them but seeks always to work for their good and for their blessing and which prays unceasingly for them. This, says Paul to the argumentative and competitive Corinthians, is God’s calling for you in Christ. It is his calling also for us.

Lord, help me never to forget these words. Through your love I am redeemed. You are patient with me, always kind towards me and keep no record of my wrongs – wonderful words! You do not give up on me but persevere with me despite my failings and slowness to learn. You are wonderful to me. Help me to live a life shaped by such love. Make me more like Jesus, more like the person I shall be when he appears. Help me to show this same unfailing love towards others that they too may be drawn into the saving embrace of your love.

Peter Misselbrook