Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Corinthians 13: Does All Really Mean All?

I keep getting stuck on verse 7.  Notice the wording in these different translations:
  • "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)
  • "Love puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end." (The Message)
  • "Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (NASB)
  • "Love keeps quiet about others' faults, continues to trust, continues with hope, endures everything." (my English translation of the Nuwe Lewende Vertaling)
  • "Covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, bears all things." (my English translation of the Afrikaans 1983 Vertaling)
  • "Love protects where people need to be protected, love always believes the best of other people and anticipates it from them. Love knows no end." (my English translation of Die Boodskap)
Always trusts... endures all things... puts up with anything... covers all things... always perseveres... bears all things.  When it says "all things," does it really mean all things?

Western society would say otherwise.  Love up to a point.  Love only as long as it's good for you.  Love until you've had enough, can't take it anymore, need to move on.  Love as long as it benefits you and serves you well.  In other words, only give love if you get something in return.  Somehow I don't think that's what Paul (or Jesus) meant, but on the other hand, this "bears all things" seems so... impossible at times.

What about all of the evils in this world?  The betrayals, violence, rejection, blatant harm and hate? Does love endure that?  I don't want to make a blanket statement and incite the wrath of half the world (mostly because I don't know the answer to this question, and even if I did, I can't say that what's right for me to do is also right for everyone else), but some of the most amazing stories - humanity at its best - involved people loving their "enemy", enduring "all things" with a love that goes far beyond my comprehension.

In those cases, I'm not sure where love ends and forgiveness begins, or if they are synonyms of one another.  Maybe it's always like that.


Dianne said...

I think the key lies in the word "love". Our self-generated, human loves (phileo, storge, eros) are need-centered loves and require reciprocation to continue. When others hurt us enough, we cannot, in and of ourselves, love them.

The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape. We cannot humanly agape someone without being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, because agape IS God--"God is agape" (1 John 4:8). He longs to love this broken world through us. He will generate the love; we just have to step out in obedience. :)

Elisabeth said...

I like the thought. Where does live end and forgiveness begin? That's really something to chew on. Thanks!

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

Hi Anna,

You are going to think I'm crazy(I am by the way)for deleting twice before posting. The first was for an edit, and the 2nd was out of fear of representing a 'noisy gong'! I finally have a moment to comment and I'll leave it be this time, noisy or not. :) There is such good conversation to be had here, the kind you could have over coffee.

In your post you had written about the “where” love and forgiveness begins and ends. As I read Elisabeth’s comment, I was reminded that God is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, and that all things are held together by Him alone. Our love and forgiveness begins and ends with Him, as does others’. It causes me to consider, in light of His complete love and forgiveness for me and His finished work on the cross: Where is my heart when He asks me to love and forgive others, am I willing? If I am not, do I ask God for His help, so that I will become willing, as He gives me sight? He is the beginning and end of it all, isn't He?

Are you content with how some of the translations laid out vs. 7? I found some versions to be lacking and misplaced. I believe God bears with us in patience, knowing our growth in Him, and others' too, though often slow, is worthwhile and worth the suffering, the bearing. As parents, we bear with our children as they learn a new instrument or how to sing a new song. We know the practice, the learning, is worthwhile. Teachers will correct and require more practice while kind family members and friends will bear with us, grinning and applauding or run out of the room with their ears covered!

I know that is a pretty version and that the world offers difficult and horrific realities experienced by many, some we're more acquainted with than others. In all of it though, I believe that God has still made a way, through the work of Christ, for us to walk and move forward, in His love and His forgiveness... redeeming all things. Sometimes we need to bear and have forbearance with others (our own selves too) being mindful that God Himself is at work in their lives, let alone ours. And depending on the situation and what He is working, we very well might find that we’re the part of the body that needs to speak up, take a stand, point, lift up, keep quiet, or show by example. We sure need to wait on Him for His direction, especially when it comes to bearing with others - personally, socially, all things, don't we?! There is such a dance going on in I Cor 13!

Wrapping up with thoughts on 'all things'...I'm reminded that He didn't stand by and watch the money changers at the temple. He didn't bear with them and smile patiently, he did something. He also confronted pious leaders and called them a 'brood of vipers,' exposing their hearts. He did bear with them for a time, but then he spoke up. Jesus did bear with his disciples too, knowing that their understandings were growing and he prayed to his Father for them. Prayer. I'm thinking prayer lines up well with the beginnings and endings of all things. Especially when it comes to learning how to love and forgive, the way He would have us do.

I've probably gone off on different tangents than what you had purposed your writing for, but these are thoughts that came to mind in connection with your exploration and questions of I Cor 13. Thanks for sharing and questioning, the conversation is worthwhile!


Anna said...

I like good conversations over coffee, Jennifer! :-)

I agree with you that apart from God, we can neither love nor forgive.

I like some translations of verse 7 better than others, but that's just probably because of where I am in life at the moment. It's funny how some translations jump out to us more than others, depending on where we are and what we're learning...

Yes, God has made a way for us to move forward despite our circumstances - even despite horrific circumstances. I don't doubt that for a second. Most of the time when I post, I'm just throwing out food for thought rather than closing all of the loopholes. I never want to appear as the final authority on theology! I mostly want to raise questions to ponder, mull over, or point out a possibly different perspective. Sometimes people end up writing theological treatises pointing out my "flaws"... I don't mind that so much as I know that I make lots of flaws theologically! I'm more concerned that people might view my blog as a forum for debating theology! I DO think it's wise to study the Bible and know it as best as one can, but I'd rather err on the side of loving people, if that makes any sense. :-)

I like your metaphor of a dance going on in I Corinthians... it certainly gives a new visual image to contemplate. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

Hi Anna,

While enjoying tea this morning, I giggled as I thought of the many areas I’ve wondered about ‘bearing all things’ and how it applied in circumstances from minute to big. I think you’d giggle along with me over some of the thoughts. It’s often easier to do so in retrospect, don’t you find? Especially when you see how funky some of the dance moves have turned out! In it all though, yes, God did make a way, teaching my heart and equipping, causing growth, again and again…and again. What a journey all of it is, the good, the bad and the ugly, all of it drawing us to Himself, even if it is in wonder - this too Lord, really?!

This verse from Hebrews has been such an encouragement to me, especially when I question Him with my ‘really’ questions and ‘what about this, that, them and me and how exactly’s?’

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 9:25

I love the word ‘uttermost’ here as it covers everything, from pettiness to profound, all of it. - yep, that, that and even that too! And to think He is interceding for us…

At the end of my ‘really?’ questions, I’m brought back to the same place: His grace alone, nothing of myself. There is nothing I can do to make anyone happy enough all the time or to meet anyone’s needs all of the time. If we could do it perfectly or good enough,we'd have no need of Him, would we?! Oh, I so need Him! I’m thankful that He bears with me, He is gracious, patient and kind. He causes the dance to be worthwhile and somehow beautiful in His time.

I hope your coffee was good, my tea was and now the day calls,