A Little Less Imperfect

The first few verses of Paul's famous love chapter, I Corinthians 13, is often quoted at weddings. The bride and groom are starry-eyed, certain that every quality mentioned will be their daily experience for the next fifty or sixty years.

Then the toothpaste tube ends up with the cap off and love is suddenly "easily angered" (vs. 4). The kids come and sleepless nights become a dreary, weary habit rather than a rarity and being "patient" is tough (vs. 4). You get the picture.

And outside of marriage there is even less excuse to not envy, to not boast, to not be proud, to not be self-seeking, to keep no record of wrongs.

It's hard to protect when you feel unprotected, difficult to trust when trust has been betrayed. Hope is easily lost, and sometimes we just feel far too tired to persevere.

Love does seem to fail, even though Paul insists it shouldn't.

But though verse 12 has always been a part of 1 Corinthians 13, I never connected it to the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed verses with which Paul begins the chapter.But in order to avoid throwing out the first few verses as far too optimistic I need to think about verse 12.

Some people say that it isn't the destination that counts, but the journey. In this case at least, it is the destination that counts. It's the only thing that makes the journey a desirable one to pursue over a lifetime. Paul writes: "Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (13:12).

I take the journey to get to the destination. The journey is the imperfect practice of all the character qualities mentioned in the first verses. The destination is the day when all those character qualities will be perfected. It won't be here and I don't know how long it will take me to get there—or when the journey will end, but Paul is certain that this "poor reflection" of the character qualities of love will be perfected one day. In the meanwhile he, and we, must understand and accept love's imperfections, though we never cease to strive to make the imperfect a little less so.

When we are face to face with our Saviour, Jesus, we will see perfection. When He looks at us He will see perfection. The journey will be over and the destination arrived at.

Here and now is just the practice run. And practice will eventually "make perfect."


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