1 CORINTHIANS XIII – translation and comments by Michael Brewer
1 Corinthians XIII
Even if I speak in tongues that can reach the hearts of human beings and of angels, but I do not have love, my speaking remains as sounding brass or clanging cymbal. And even if I have the gift of prophecy and know and understand all mysteries and all hidden knowledge, and even if I have heart’s power of vision so strongly that I can remove mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing. And even if I give away all of my possessions, and even if I give up my body to be burned, but I do not have love, it does not help me at all.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous; love is not conceited; it is not arrogant; it is not rude; it does not seek its own interest, it is not easily provoked; it does not reckon up evil; it does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices in the truth; it accepts all things, trusts in all things, hopes in all things, endures all things.
Love never comes to an end; but where there are prophecies, they shall lose their value; where there are tongues, they shall cease; where there is wisdom, it shall pass away. For our knowing is partial, likewise our prophesying; but when that which is complete comes, that which is partial is set aside. When I was immature, I spoke as one who is immature, I formed opinions in an immature way; my reasoning was immature; now that I have become a man, I have set aside what belongs to immaturity. For now we see an enigma as in a dull mirror, but then we shall see face to face; now I know in part, then I shall know as I am also known.
Indeed now these are the three things that will endure beyond this age: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.
A wonderful way to pass time is to observe active children, whether at play in a neighborhood, in a school playground, or even pushing one of those recently invented child-sized shopping carts at a supermarket. There is a joy in children which comes from imitating those closest to them, a joy which rests in their assumption that the world is good.
At the same time, we may quickly notice that other aspects of what they see are also accepted as right and proper. Very early a child will play at war; it is just about impossible to shield a child from the imagination of the gun. And the wonderful play of children can all too easily turn cruel. So it is that while we admire and love our children, we are aware of the need for discipline, for setting an example, for education, for changing ourselves so that we may lead them into their true selves.
Part of the issue has to do with what we might call a circle of love. In the months after birth, the child’s love is universal; then the circle may well narrow down to members of the immediate family before slowly expanding once again during school and into adulthood. This is a transformation of love—no longer the instinctive love that the child brings to earth from the spiritual world, but a love that is learned through practice. But this takes hard work; how many of us can claim to have developed a universal love, a love which does not exclude anyone or anything?
The poet Christian Morgenstern described his experience of the human being in its truest form—that its deepest form is love, a love through which we will embrace the world as the archetypal human being has done. And this is the task of humanity on earth: to learn to love not instinctively as a newborn child, but out of a full consciousness that knows as we are known.