It seemed disgusting, but I sang it with all the conviction of a five-year-old at Christmastime: “Slee-eep in heavenly peas.” Celestial slumber on green vegetables, the worst of which were peas—it made no sense, but, well, if this was part of heaven, so be it, I guess. I’ll bet we all could entertain each other for hours with precious recollections of childhood misperceptions. Fortunately, we learn as we go, building broader and deeper frames of reference, gaining clarity and understanding that serve us well as we grow into adulthood.
It was from this more mature vantage point that Paul reminisced to the Corinthian church, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”1It would be fun to hear some of his own early memories, but the apostle was making a larger point to believers young in their faith, essentially this: There comes a time when partial knowledge and understanding will disappear, and what will remain are these—faith, hope and love, “the greatest of [which] is love.”2 So what does real love look like? Paul mentors us through this now-familiar contrast:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.3
Who can disagree? Who is not humbled before true love? Isn’t this life as life should be? Then does love become another law that we try to keep in our own power? Fortunately, no. Writes John, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,”4 adding, “We love because he first loved us.”5 There is something in receiving God’s love for us that exposes the futility of a self-centered life, and it is in the joy of His unfettered love for us that we are free to live in love—the pinnacle of maturity.
Father, thank you for so loving the world that You gave us your one and only Son, that, believing in Him we would not perish but have eternal life. Fill, guide and nurture us, that we would live this forever-life in love—real love, your love. Amen.
1 1 Corinthians 13:11
2 1 Corinthians 13:13
3 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
4 1 John 4:10
5 1 John 4:19