A Hopefully Not-Too-Presumtuous Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13

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If I were to come to you with the most spectacular, eloquent words you’ve ever heard, so beautiful that your heart stopped at the brilliance of it,
But I was not a person who was full love,
My words would be nothing better than the sound of a kid banging a drum until all hours of the night.

And if I could tell you all about life, the universe, and everything—
If I could unfold all that had ever happened,
And all that was currently happening,
And all that would ever happen,
Such that you had all the answers to all your questions;
And if I was so faithful that I could walk over to Snow Canyon and tell it to relocate itself to my backyard in Hurricane, so that I could take all my favorite hikes whenever I wanted to;
But I was not a person who was full of love,
None of that would matter in the slightest.

And if I decided, Look, I’m going to sell my house and my clothes and my car and give everything away to the poor;
And if I said, I’m going to donate a kidney, a lung, my spleen, parts of my appendix and my pancreas, and six of my ribs—
The limit the internet says I can do and live—
But I was not a person who was full of love,
Those gifts would be utterly useless.

What is love, you ask?

Is it something you fall in and out of?
Is it something you feel?
Is it something you do?
Is it something you are?

Love is patient.
Not just in traffic (but, yes, in traffic, too).
It’s patient when you’re waiting for a diagnosis.
When you’re worn out and your kids are climbing all over you.
When someone you care about has gone a way you can’t follow, but you’ve resolved that you’ll be there for them when they come back to you, no matter how long it takes.
When the thing you have prayed about for months, or maybe years, still feels painful and unresolved—
Not that you never cry or complain or ask God why or when.
But even in the midst of it, you cling to him.
You cling to him because there is nothing else to cling to.

And love is kind.
Not just “nice” or “polite,” but genuine.
Really interested.
Willing to listen.
And sometimes firm and clear: No, that hurts me; that doesn’t work for me; let’s try another way.
Love’s kindness doesn’t mean being walked over; it means walking in integrity with others.

And love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It’s being willing to accept: It’s not always all about me, I’m not the center of the universe.
It’s being happy for others’ accomplishments and gifts.
It’s being gracious in the grocery line.

Love does not insist on its own way.
It’s flexible, it makes space.
There’s no coercion with love, no behave-or-you-won’t-belong, no threats or silent treatments or manipulations or name-calling or violence.
But it’s also when you stand up,
When you say, I can’t and won’t force you, but this matters to me.

Love is not irritable or resentful.
It declines to hold on to grudges,
It never seeks ways to keep score.
It puts the best possible construction on another’s words and behaviors,
Looks at things from another point of view.

Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing,
In the perverse delight of others’ mistakes.
It’s when you avoid saying, “I told you so.”
When you refuse to enable self-destruction
Or egg-on cruelty:
There are no internet pile-ons, no cancellations with love.

Instead, love rejoices in truth,
Is willing to be corrected and open to being wrong.
It’s when you say, “I’d rather know what is true, even if it means letting go of things that are painful to let go of, than to stay locked in a perspective, worldview, or identity that isn’t rooted in reality.”
It’s being willing to change—
Yet at the same time, it’s knowing when not to change.
When you stand firm in the convictions that really matter.
When you refuse to let go of what is right and noble and good, even when there is immense pressure to conform.

For the sake of love, we become willing to bear all manner of disapproval and even persecution;
For the sake of love, we trust in God’s goodness, even when the world is crumbling around us;
For the sake of love, we hope for God’s promised future when every tear will be dried and every sorrow transformed into joy;
For the sake of love, we endure pain and sorrow now.

That’s because love never ends.
It is the center of what is really real.
It is the essence of God Himself.
No, literally: within God’s very Being, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are constantly in a state of loving and being beloved by one another.

That’s what it means when we speak of God as Triune:
Within the One God there is an interplay of love and belovedness between the Three Persons of the Trinity, God’s very Self—
And we are invited to join in.

Starting as children who understand as children and see as children,
And growing into adults in faith and union with God.

For God is molding us and making us into his own image.
God created us out of an abundance of love,
Then gave us the commandments to teach us what love looks like,
Then became one of us to meet us where we are,
Then died on the cross and was raised on the third day to bring us into God’s life of love forever.

It’s hard to understand, like looking into a broken mirror.
But here’s what we know for sure:

One day, our prophecies won’t be necessary.
One day, all knowledge will be before us and there will be no more mysteries.
That’s because, one day, we will stand face to face with God and will know him even as he knows us.

It will be more than we can imagine, but not qualitatively different from what we’ve already experienced.
We’re talking degrees here, not kind.
We are glimpsing it now already.
Through our trust and hope in God, we are receiving a foretaste of what is to come,
Poured out by God’s infinite grace,
So that we may share in who and what God is.

Many things will pass away and no longer be necessary.
Faith, hope, and love will always be there, now and into eternity.

But the greatest of all is love:
Because it’s always been love;
Because God is love;
Because we were made to love and be loved.

And so it will always be—
Love from top to bottom,
Love from beginning to end.

Amen.

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