First Presbyterian Church of Olney

An evangelical church in urban Philadelphia

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First Presbyterian Church of Olney Philadelphia PA

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Holy Week Devotions 2016
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - Allan McKeown

8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 NLT


Much of this scripture passage (combined with earlier verses) has been used forever at weddings, put on matching towels and just about any item you can think of in stores, and is probably very familiar to us. It is a symbol of unity, but at the time, it was written to be a plea to come together as a church body. The Corinthian church was in the midst of disorder, misusing some of their spiritual gifts, and causing conflict with one another. Earlier in chapter 12, Paul spoke about how many people in the church were using their gifts without the proper perspective and how that can ultimately become harmful to the Body.  The reason that love is more powerful than these gifts is because the gifts themselves are temporary. But if gifts are used to strengthen the rest of the Body of Christ -- the benefits go on forever. Paul was trying to show that love (the love that Jesus shows us) is eternal and that gifts are not. At that time in Corinth, the early church did not have a full understanding of love and humility. Paul was trying to move the Corinthians (with their gifts) away from his critique of them as being selfish, boastful, and divisive. He wanted them to understand that, without real love, all of these other “skills” are useless in God’s kingdom.
We are to identify with God’s plan for us -- and not our own plan based on our finite understanding of gifts. This is where verse 12 becomes crucial to our understanding of this traditional nice-feeling passage. We all know that we sin and fall short of God’s glory, but what can we do to alter our understanding to get closer in line with God’s design? We won’t ever fully know, but we have received revelations of how to think and how to act from the Bible and through Jesus’ actions and teachings. We know to encourage, to refrain from speaking critically, to give to those who have need, and to treat others how we would like to be treated. We see daily how many of our “leaders” (while even using their Christianity and faith as a podium) are not always being mindful of these tenants from God (through Paul). Despite what happens in the world around us, we have to be the doers of the Word as much as we can, and hopefully there will come a day where they will be convicted to do the same and lead by example.
Perhaps there will come a time when Christians will no longer be clanging cymbals but more consistently acting symbols of God’s principles. Although we may all feel that, as small agents of Jesus, we don’t do well enough or continue to fall short based on how we normally identify success (in our job, as a family member, or anything else), we should remember that our identity is from God-- and that what we see now is more like those “puzzling reflections in a mirror” that verse 12 mention. We are children of God and reconciled through Jesus following his sacrifice; full clarity is yet to come! We are being sought by God no matter how short we have fallen. Amazing Love (how can it be)!  This comfort (His love) is what we are called to offer to others, and there’s no better time than this season to further spread that message. Let’s continue to pray for the many Christians in the public spotlight-- that they, who have the biggest opportunity to impact the world for good, would be amazing witnesses to the principles of I Corinthians 13.

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5435 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120