Happy new year -- a happy new decade! -- to each of you. As you contemplate the coming months, I thought you might enjoy this perspective from Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson. I read it with my nieces this morning during our devotion time together. It was refreshing to consider, especially as we lifted up our bold prayer requests to God for the coming year.
Even though we assume you are very familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, we recommend a different, perhaps novel, approach to this wonderful passage: rather than looking at it as a series of commands, consider looking at it first as a sneak preview of what we'll see when we finally gaze upon [Jesus] "face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12). Rather than automatically asking, "What does this passage tell me to do?" let's ask, "What do these verses tell me about God's love for me through Christ?" We have taken the liberty to paraphrase the passage with that emphasis to help you see what we mean:
As the author of language and as God's Living Word, Jesus can speak in the tongues of men and angels, and yet he condescends to speak simple words that nourish, soothe, and delight our souls. He knows the past and the future, understands all mysteries and knowledge; has all faith and reigns as Ruler over all; and yet, his love caused him to humble himself and remove our mountain of sin. Because of his love, we who are nothing have become "beloved." He gave away what was rightfully his, humbled himself, and delivered up his body to be burned in the scorching furnace of the wrath of his Father.
Jesus is patient and kind; he doesn't envy and boast. When faced with Satan's temptation to prove his Godhead in the wilderness and on the cross, he never showed off his power. He was utterly humble. He wasn't arrogant or rude, railing on the disciples, deserting them because of their selfish ambition. He isn't arrogant or rude with us either. When standing before his accusers he didn't insist that they treat him with respect, nor did he proudly demand their accolades. He was silent, like a lamb before her shearers. The humble King of heaven wore a crown of thorns and a purple cloak. He is never irritable or resentful, picking away at every little foible he sees. In love, his blood covers our multitudinous sins.
He doesn't gleefully rejoice when you sin, glad to finally have an opportunity to give you your comeuppance. He rejoices when you believe the truth, not simply the truth about you--that you are sinful and flawed--but also the truth about him--that he loves and welcomes you. Out of love for you, he bears all things. He has unflinching faith and hope in your transformation because he knows the power of his love. He knows that one day he will bring you to be with himself. He has endured and continues to endure all things out of love for you. His love never ends. Never.
Ten zillion years from now, when he has had time to really see what sort of person you are, his love won't have worn out. In fact, he knows you through and through right now and loves you all the same. Your shameful secrets cannot shock or repel him. His love never ends. One day we will see him face-to-face and then we will fully understand, for the first time, what real love looks like.