And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love I am nothing.
If you have watched TV sometime between 2004 and 2017, then you have probably seen the medical drama House or BBC’s Sherlock. The protagonist in both shows is so unprecedentedly good at what he does (diagnosing rare diseases and solving mysteries based on subtle observations respectively), that he can afford to be a jerk. Sounds unappealing if you haven’t seen the shows, but as the viewer, you feel like you a part of the inner circle and somehow immune to the offenses of the main character. The disregard for others becomes strangely endearing or deserved. In some ways this person is our champion because he doesn’t have to play the game– he doesn’t have to work on wording himself so as not to offend others, doesn’t have to practice patience or the ever-so-frustrating art of collaboration. Mr. P has told me about countless doctors who are the best in the country (or even the world) at the surgeries they do and these completely nonfictional people are equally renowned jerks. And half of the students think it’s admirable–what intensity. We love it. Or at least, I do.
This morning I read 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter of the Bible known for talking about love. I thought I knew what it said, but in light of my praise for these people, I found it sobering. It ultimately says that you can be the best surgeon in the world or a mystery-solving genius or (fill the in the blank) but without love you are nothing and your accomplishments amount to nothing but noise. Whoa. And if that’s not clear enough, it goes on to explain what love is: patient, kind, not envying or boasting, not arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way, not irritable or resentful, not rejoicing at wrong-doing, rejoicing in the truth… I don’t share this to scold all of you, friends. I guess I just wanted to share how surprised I was and how corrected. If I was tempted to feel scolded, then I read verse 8: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Most everything I work for will turn to dust and in a century, perhaps no one will remember me. But love lasts forever. This takes the menial task of practicing patience and turns it into one of the most important things I can do today.
Here’s the full chapter:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Happy Friday, friends.