I saw an interesting little icon today, showing a picture of Christ. In it, He was bruised, having been beaten like a criminal. On His bowed head, He wore a spiky crown of thorns that mocked His mission; the mission God gave His Son to link His divinity with our humanity–first in His body destined for death and then in our bodies, destined for life. And from His arm and chest, poured blood that had been called to abandon its assignment to sustain His body. Four pure white words silently blinked above him in the blackness. They were:
The whole tableau brought a hush to my soul. Then a question slowly began to be unfurled in the silence:
For the first time I realized I truly did not. I had never deduced that their first association was with Christ. It startled me that I had missed it’s deepest meaning because I’d always made those words revolve around me.
Before this moment I had only ever thought of those words as they applied to my own sanctification: how I would learn to love when I endured all things. When I read this verse with the others in 1 Corinthians 13, I pictured these precepts being represented as a gate; one that I would never really get all the way through.
For instance, when I read the verse, my thoughts are: Yes, I need to be reminded again; I have to endure “all things” if I am to prove that I have love. I can’t have any boundaries to what I choose to accept from others. And the thoughts always ended with Ugh! I’m never going to be able to make this work! Why does the Bible have to be a house of such impossible expectations for us? I don’t even know why I keep reading this, trying to pretend that I’m actually going to be able to do this! It’s just so hard and unlike me.
But I never thought of these verses as something that relates who God is to me more than it relates who I am to others. They are a description of who God is and what He went through because of me. But, not just because of me; because of Him as well. If He had not been love, He would not have endured any of the all things that I did wrong to Him. He would have made that verse read: “Love makes the aggrieving party endure all the things that they have deserved.”
But that is not what it says. It says that Love endures all things. Love endured all things. He didn’t hold back from anything He could experience as a result of me. He endured it all so that there could be a relationship between us. He endured it all, so that maybe I would see that He was the only way I could be free; He was the only One who would account for my sins and make me snow-white before God.
In this new interpretation of the words, the fact that Love endures all things, is something to celebrate. It reflects a gift that is unparalleled in its generosity and grace. It makes me want to know this Love in all its infinite grandeur, rather than wanting to try to duplicate it. I can do nothing to improve this love, nor would it be more precious to me if I could make it my own by separating it from Him. This love is a Person. If love were less than a person it could not endure. In all things it could be only a vapor of substance.
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