Exchanging Passing Things for Ultimate Things2
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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
-1 Corinthians 13:8-9
Paul is continuing to fill out the New Testament answer to the great question “what is the good life?” He frames it as ‘the most excellent way.’
And today he suggests that one of the reasons why love is the most excellent way is that other things will pass away. For the Corinthians who are rabidly searching out ecstatic spiritual experiences, Paul says that even if you find them, they won’t last forever. When Jesus returns and the whole world is made new again, there won’t be any need for prophecies and there won’t be any more special revelations of knowledge.
Love, however, remains forever and ever, into eternity and forevermore. Love endures, that’s why it’s at the core of what the Jesus-way answer is to the good life.
There’s nothing wrong or bad about those things that Paul lists that are passing. They are good things. But they are not ultimate things. Throughout the Bible, God calls his people to put aside good things (sometimes money, sometimes power or prestige or reputation or even spiritual experiences) in order to fix their hearts on the true Ultimate Thing: God, God’s love, God’s purposes in the world.
We are perpetually tempted to try to build our lives on the shifting sands of good things that are passing: our careers, our families, our skillsets, our friendships, our social standing, what we wear or eat or drink. All good things. All things that will not last forever.
Today, Paul calls all of us to hold loosely the good things and to build our lives around love, the truly good thing that will not pass away.
Name one good thing that you’re tempted to make an ultimate thing. Offer that to God and ask to exchange that for a life with love at the center and at the top of what matters to you.