I can sense a question coming: “Joel, why do we see a picture of the left rear fin of a 1957 Buick Special? It isn’t particularly encouraging.” It is a reminder of a memorable time for many (although before my memory). Our country and economy were generally strong. Family and church life maintained primary importance with many people. Many even loved the bold, flashy styling of cars like this Buick.
This picture wasn’t included for any of these reasons. If you look closely in the chrome on the fin, bumper, and trim, you can see reflections of me (or at least parts of me). “Oh yeah Joel, now that you mention it, I CAN see you. At least your distorted head and some of your body and arms. Well, it doesn’t look totally like you, but I see at least a partial resemblance.”
“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. 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 put aside childish things. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, CSB)
I believe I am generally a patient person. But there are times I find myself thinking, “Why can’t I pray more effectively?” “Why can’t I explain things better?” “Why don’t I listen as well as I should?” “Why am I not a more consistent example of Christ?” I believe Paul considered some of the same lines of thought for the benefit of all believers. In the passage above Paul mentions abilities and qualities that help us to mature. The intended meaning of the word “perfect” there is not “flawless” as we tend to understand it as modern Americans. The idea of the word (telos) in Greek is “completion,” “finish,” “end,” or “goal.” The lifetime sanctification we experience as believers leads us from being children in faith to mature adults, ready to meet Christ when He returns.
Our ultimate goal is reaching the point when the most obvious, shining characteristic we show is God’s love. It takes time—a lifetime, in fact. Our dedication to faith and hope in Christ will help us reach the finality of our development in God’s love. It may not be at the pace that we would like, but it will be at the pace God knows we need. Don’t forget the Spirit’s help. One day we won’t be an imperfect reflection, but a clear image of His love and nature!
Take heart and be encouraged!