8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
The above passage is taken from what many call “The Love Chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13. It may appear as an odd source of encouragement on a day that we all remember so well as tragic. For many of us, this is the defining tragedy of our generation, which means it is the primary event that causes us to question the meaning of this event and any other evil actions. For many, their view of God has been shaped by tragedy, rather than their view of tragedy being shaped by their (biblical) view of God.
I remember hurting for a particular woman on CNN who said that her husband had been killed in this act of terrorism and that if God would allow such a thing, then she hates that God. I remember not being angry or frustrated at such a statement, but simply thinking this is honest, coming from someone who genuinely hurt, but also one who came to a “better” conclusion than those who would believe in a careless God who is out of control and by whom evil seemingly passes unnoticed only to react after its terrible effects have occurred (see “Open Theism..” below).
1 Corinthians 13:11,12 can help us tremendously in our humble, wondering, pain-filled, yet trusting worship of an Almighty God! In verse 12, Paul is speaking of progress from being like a child to becoming a man and leaving childish ways. Verse 13 makes plain that although we develop and “evolve” in our thinking and spiritual pursuit, we still see “dimly” and will not understand fully until we are perfected in Christ at His coming / our going home. In all of this, verse 13 says that the overarching theme of God’s movement is His love. How can God be loving and allow / cause tragedy like 9/11?
I can’t help but think of the conversations I have with my daughter, Anna, about discipline. Her question to me is, “Daddy, how can you say you love me if you spank me?” That’s an honest question coming from a 6 year old (“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…”). My explanation has to do with things she does not fully understand yet regarding sin and consequences; future choices and protection. Basically, that my love is beyond her ability to understand, she just has to trust me.
I cannot help but think that we still reason like children in our view of God and evil / tragic events related to His love. God has made clear to us that the greatest self-expression of Himself is Jesus Christ (2 Cor.4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.“). Jesus loves redeeming His own. God loves reconciling His own to Himself in Christ Jesus. The depth of loss and pain and suffering in this world still does not compare to the glory to be revealed in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18). See, our hope in Christ is not in mere relief. Our hope in Christ is in Christ Himself as the one who captures all of the suffering, sin and “fallenness” of this world, reconciles it on the cross, defeats it in an empty tomb and will be the full, lasting object of worship for all of eternity because of it.
Does this diminish the hurt and pain of a 9/11? No. But it should remind us that we still see in the mirror “dimly” and we are not there yet, but we can progress from childish reasoning to adulthood, trusting that God is ALWAYS loving and His love will be seen in its fullness one day.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.