I’ve been wanting to do this kind of post for a while now. 1 Corinthians 13 happens to be my favorite passage in the Bible, and I think St. Paul wrote a beautiful explanation of God that really touches the soul. After seeing what St. Augustine did with the psalms (how he analyzed each one closely), I decided to try my hand. However, since my development in theology is still not perfected, I probably won’t do as good a job as he would have. My respects to Augustine.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Paul is talking about how without love, you become just a noisemaker. Without passion behind your words, those words become empty. They become nothing more than noise. Even if you are giving a great message, it means nothing without love, almost as if it became a mockery of the message it was supposed to give, a big joke. To me, this seems to show that Paul believed love was a virtue that empowers us to live and to give meaning to what we do and what we say.
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 have not love, I am nothing.
He is emphasizing his previous point, even going so far as to say that miracles and knowledge are empty without love. What is the point of prophecies without love? What does knowledge matter to you if you are loveless? What use is there of a faith with no basis in love? It is a very strong view of love and attests to Paul’s belief in love being the highest virtue.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
He goes on to make his point. If you give a sacrifice of yourself, but without love, that sacrifice becomes nothing. It means nothing, you learn nothing from it.
Love is patient, love is kind.
He goes on to describe what love is. Love is patient. Many people seem to not understand this. You can’t rush love or anything like that. I see that more and more people get married on whims as opposed to waiting, and then they get divorced. It makes me feel sad because they’re bringing so much hardship on themselves because they can’t wait. I believe as a Catholic that love (in the romantic sense) requires one to wait to have sex until marriage. I’m not going to go into that now, but I might for a later post, so for now let’s just say that I agree with the Church.
Love is kind. Love isn’t just some feeling that goes away or retreats when you’re mad or upset. When you love, you have understanding; you try to make things work. Kindness is an important part of love, because it shows that you are gentle, yet firm. You know how and when to use strength, and when to be soft.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
I know that when you love someone, you tend to be jealous. “She’s my girl”, “he’s my man”, stuff like that is common, and I can understand such sentiment. When you love someone, you want them all to yourself. At the same time, however, when emotions like those go to an extreme, they become hurtful. Things like paranoia and stalking can break an otherwise perfect relationship. True love knows when to be protective without passing the line into obsession.
When you’re also in love, you tend to show it. Like, you want to yell at the top of your lungs that you love a certain person. But love itself does not do that. When you love, you don’t brag about the person you’re in love with. And what’s more, people can see if you’re happy or not and so it becomes unnecessary when you’re in love, because your own feelings shine through if they’re positive ones. Love isn’t a show-off who delights in exalting itself, it is a feeling that shows itself through your joy.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not make you a grouch, but rather, I believe it makes you an overall happier person. When you love someone, it’s such a beautiful thing. Think back to how you were crushing on that cute girl or guy and how happy you got when you looked at them smile or when they complimented you. Now imagine that magnified a hundred-fold. Or possibly even more. You become someone who is happy, and happy people are usually nice.
Love is sacrificial. If there’s one thing love is not, it is definitely not selfish. Love only wants what’s best for the love one. Like Jesus on the cross, who died to save us from sin because of His love for us, when we love someone, we also do the same. Parents would do anything for their children, a man would do anything for his woman, a best friend would do anything for his/her best friend. Love makes you give of yourself, it does not take.
Love makes you more patients. Why? Because when you’re happy, you tend to become more resistant to pain or stress. You feel stronger and can take on more. You can be calm and think things through rather than go into a fury. Of course, when the person you love is in danger, your anger can come out, but that’s a different story. Love also doesn’t punish or keep grudges. When you love someone, you become more tolerant and more forgiving.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love isn’t something that makes you do evil but rather is happy when the truth is known. As a positive virtue that comes from God (and indeed IS God), I believe that love orientates you closer to God. It wants you to become more like God and follow God in a better way.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
As mentioned above, when the life of the person you love is in danger, your love for them makes you do many seemingly impossible things to help them. You have the desire to help them, even at the cost of yourself. That is what makes love such a strong emotion, that it can go against natural human instincts such as greed and self-preservation. Love makes you more hopeful, makes you more able to wait for a better time. It is something that gives you strength to live on, even for that one special person.
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 perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
Paul here makes a point of saying that love never fails and then shows things that cease to exist. Love is something durable and eternal. Love is God, God is love, so of course, love also is eternal, like God! Prophecies are meant to be useful before the event prophesied happens, after that event the prophecy becomes useless. Languages also do not matter after a certain time, namely, after death. Even knowledge will mean nothing when there is nothing else to know in Heaven. However, love transcends all these.
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 childish ways behind me.
What does it mean to be a man? It means many things, but for me, one of those things is to be a defender and a righteous person. You mature, you grow, you live, you love. It is the same with a woman. Children sometimes do things without understanding the consequences of their actions or because they want to be in control. An adult does not have that luxury anymore. When I become a man, I can no longer afford to waste time, I have to be responsible, and no matter my wishing to postpone that, I know that the time for me to stand up on my own will come, and relatively soon at that. To put childish things is to leave behind your immature, foolish self and to finally embrace your role as a human being. This is a lesson that I know very well but still struggle to follow through fully. It is hard to do, but eventually we must all go through this path. Also note that being a “child” and “adult” do not necessarily correspond to age, but rather to mental development.
Now we see but a poor 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.
As “children”, we are incomplete, as if we were looking at a poorly made mirror. However, once we grow, we become full, we are then able to see what we are with a full strength of dedication. Once we become full, we can know clearly, without hindrance, but with a new mentality and new clarity.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The final declaration of Paul- the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. Out of all of these, he put love in the most exalted place. Love is something so much more than faith and hope. Sure, you believe in God and others, but without love, what does this believe really mean? Faith is complete in love, because without love, faith is just words. You can hope all you want, but without love, what are you hoping for? Hope becomes full in love because love gives you something to look forward to and it gives your hope meaning and strength. So, love. Love is the highest virtue we can possess. With love, everything becomes open, and we are able to enjoy God in all His majesty. God is Love.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and hope even more that this reflection has at least made you think about love and our place in love. As always, leave compliments/critiques/advice/anything else! Good night everyone, and let the Love of God embrace you all!
(On a side note, I wanted to explain more fully what my ideas of love are, but since this post is big enough, I guess it’s best to leave it for another time, probably sooner than later. Wait for it!)