Woven into Paul’s great hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13 is a strand of truth we often hurry by in our eagerness to enjoy the apostle’s promise that we shall soon see the Lord “face to face.” Four times in four verses Paul asserts that what we now know is only “in part”—limited, incomplete, not fully comprehending the great reality of either God’s plan or His love.
This isn’t merely a humble affirmation of our creatureliness. No sane Christian really doubts that the mortal can scarcely grasp the notion of immortality, nor the finite understand the infinite. Paul’s reminders of the incompleteness and the partialness of what we know—about the world, about the church, even about one another—underscore how crucial the habit of “charity,” or “love,” is for the church in these “in between times.”
Because I don’t know what it feels like to be a persecuted believer in a totalitarian state, I must ask the Spirit for a love that drives me to my knees to intercede for those whose burdens are truly great and terrible.
Because I don’t know what it is like to wonder, as thousands of believers do each day, from where my next meal will come or if I will find shelter before night, I must pray for a willingness to help fellow Adventists displaced by war, by famine, by natural disasters.
Because I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman in a male-dominated culture, frequently denied a voice in the life of both home and church, I must pray that my church will listen well when godly women plead for the opportunity to use the gifts given them by the Spirit for the spreading of the gospel.
Because I don’t know the bigotry and prejudice still wounding thousands of my fellow believers who sometimes feel excluded by their race, ethnicity, or language, I must pray for a heart to include and empower all who wait for Christ’s appearing.
There is so much we do not know—and cannot know—until what is perfect comes. The gospel’s answer for our ignorance is a love that humbles us before one another and a watching world.