The Partial Will End
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. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10
For the past 16 weeks, Life Notes has focused on the 16 characteristics of love that Paul lists in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Like the annoying salespeople on television, however, “Wait, there’s more!” There is a concluding paragraph to this series, verses 8-13, that is worthy of attention, too. That paragraph begins with the line, “Love never ends.” The thought is then clarified with, “the partial will come to an end.”
Few, if any, of us have experienced love in a way that is consistent, unconditional, and life-long (or eternal). Even the best of friendships rub nerves raw at times. The best of marriages struggle through difficult times. Long-adored spouses pass on. The children who once imitated our every move grow into teenagers who often cannot tolerate having us anywhere near them. Does that mean the love we experienced ended? I do not believe so. I think it means the love we experienced was only experienced in part – a wonderful part, perhaps – but if love never ends, then love must encompass more than just the good and easy times. Nothing of the earth is always good or easy.
As has been noted elsewhere in this series, we tend to consider love too narrowly. If our understanding of love is of something we only experience with one other person, or a small group of people, then how can we begin to grasp the love of a God who loves everyone? If we reject the pain, frustration, and disappointment that accompanies the love, acceptance, and joy of relationships, we cannot expect love to endure. When we accept only in part, the whole will elude us. Our lives on earth are mired in paradox – light and dark, hot and cold, black and white, wet and dry, happy and sad. All are manifestations of the same reality, however, and we cannot know one side of that reality without also knowing the other. In fact, the two sides define each other, as in darkness is the absence of light.
Elie Wiesel writes, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Indifference is consumed by the presence of love just as darkness recedes in the presence of light. Even so, we appreciate love more by also knowing indifference. As light is not diminished by the number of people accessing it, so love includes and is sufficient for all in its presence. If our perception is that love has left us, the experience we called love did not reflect the fullness of love. When our boundaries for what love is are too narrow, love will end.
Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.