Know Your Faith: What 1 Corinthians 13:4 really says

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by Mariana N.

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We all know the reading that’s popular for weddings and cross-stitched pillows, “Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful…” it’s all about the love. Hearing this over and over again it seems like it’s directed towards married couples and families, right? But read closely:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at a wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

St. Paul is talking about more than just kissy-face romance here. In this passage, he is referring to the theological virtue of Love, the virtue that is the greatest of the three theological virtues. In the original Greek, this love is the agape type of love that requires one to sacrifice one’s entire being. Agape is the type of love that we should have in our relationship with God. In the text before and after “love is patient, love is kind” there is no indication that this merely a human love, but one that lasts for all eternity.

We also know that God is love, and looking at it from that point of view we see that these verses are talking about our salvation and relationship with the heavenly Father. If we are to live out our faith, then we must be patient and kind, we must not be jealous or boastful or arrogant or rude. With God we can bear all things, and hope all things. From the virtue of love flows faith and hope. The fullness of agape is found in heaven when we are united with the Church triumphant.

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