"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." (NIV)
"Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled." (The Message)
1 Corinthians 13 is arguably one of the most well known passages in the Bible. We've all heard it in numerous sermons and quotes, as well as in more wedding ceremonies than we can count. Many people are familiar with it. I even considered 'The Message' version of verse 13 'Love Extravagantly' for a tattoo (but eventually settled on just the word 'Love' to represent many 'love' passages, Colossians 3:14 specifically). I still think 1 Corinthians 13 is quite meaningful, despite that it is overused and over-quoted.
Anyway, I was looking for something else, but noticed this line in 'The Message' version of verse 9 "what we say about God is always incomplete" and I've been repeating it over and over in my mind. I think this is a great balance to my near-obsession with the verse in I Peter 3 that states "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." I've been driving myself a little crazy about that, because despite my studying and praying, I still often find myself at at loss for words when it comes to talking about my faith.
I'm certainly not taking "what we say about God is always incomplete" as an excuse to stop searching and studying and practicing and trying, but I think the realization of it has reminded me of God's grace a little and made me realize that when we try to use mortal, finite, earthly words to discuss the immortal, the infinite, the heavenly... well... there is always going to be more that you just can't express.
I was thinking about these two verses this morning and thinking about how it's like the difference of knowing someone or knowing about them. Take my friend Shanen, for example. I can tell you about her, that she is brilliant and caring and beautiful and fun and funny. I can tell you that she has the most compassionate, open heart and that you always feel better about yourself after talking with her. I can tell you that she looks like the love-child of Niki Taylor and Faith Hill. I can tell you that she has been through some really terrible and difficult circumstances in her life, but despite that, her faith remains steadfast. Yes, she sounds like a pretty great person and I know that she is because I know her. But chances are, anyone reading this doesn't know what a great person she is because you don't know her. Anything I say about her will be incomplete for you because you don't have that relationship with her to fill in the gaps between my words about her and who she actually is. (And for those of you who might be lucky enough to know her, you know that what I've said about her doesn't fully express what an amazing person she is.)
I know this probably seems completely elementary, and that something like this has probably been said many times. But for me, for right now, this is a big deal. The more I know about God, the easier it will be for me to talk about him. But there will always be that bit of incomplete unless I'm talking to someone who knows him.
I've been working on this post for days now. I guess it's fitting that I can't seem to wrap it up. I'll just leave it.
1. lacking part: lacking something such as a particular part that should be present or available
2. unfinished: not yet finished or fully developed