8Love never fails. But prophecies will fail, tongues will cease, knowledge will vanish. 9Because we know partially and we prophesy partially. 10But when what is complete comes, what is partial will vanish. 11When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12For now we see dimly in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know partially, but then I will know in the same way that God knows me. — 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
We looked at why love was given the priority over lots of wonderful things. Gifts are wonderful, but they must be guided by love. Spirituality is wonderful, but without love to drive it to action, it can be a dead thing. Giving and self-sacrifice are great, but without love to drive them, they are just empty gestures. Even great faith, without love, becomes nothing.
It’s interesting that we often celebrate leaders for their gifts, their spirituality, and especially for their great faith, but we don’t celebrate them for their love quite as often. A preacher distinguished by love may get little attention, unless he also has one of these other capabilities.
A friend sent me a copy of Mark Twain’s â€œCaptain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.â€ Now Twain was often quite an irreverent man, but he caught something of the difference between God’s view and the world’s view. Stormfield is talking to his friend Sandy who has just referred to Sir Richard Duffer, a baronet from Hoboken:
“What, Sandy, a nobleman from Hoboken? How is that?”
“Easy enough. Duffer kept a sausage-shop and never saved a cent in his life because he used to give all his spare meat to the poor, in a quiet way. Not tramps,–no, the other sort–the sort that will starve before they will beg–honest square people out of work. Dick used to watch hungry-looking men and women and children, and track them home, and find out all about them from the neighbors, and then feed them and find them work. As nobody ever saw him give anything to anybody, he had the reputation of being mean; he died with it, too, and everybody said it was a good riddance; but the minute he landed here, they made him a baronet, and the very first words Dick the sausage-maker of Hoboken heard when he stepped upon the heavenly shore were, ‘Welcome, Sir Richard Duffer!’ It surprised him some, because he thought he had reasons to believe he was pointed for a warmer climate than this one.”
That’s a good illustration of how God looks at things differently than we do. God is interesting in what’s real, not what’s showing. The important thing in our life is not how much faith we had, or how powerful our gifts were, how spiritual we appeared to be, how well we knew our Bible, or whether we had all our doctrines in order. The important thing will be whether we used whatever gifts and talents we had guided by divine love.
Our knowledge, Paul tells us will pass away. Our prophecyâ€”it will become old and useless. Think about it! What use will you have for prophecy when you see Jesus face to face. How much of the knowledge that you have accumulated on this earth will crumble to dust before your eyes in the first few moments of heaven?
Love will remain because it is an eternal characteristic of God, the guiding principle of his kingdom. But all our methods, our thoughts, our plans, our dreams will be overcome by the glory of the eternal home God has prepared for us.