After Paul regained his sight, he seemed to look closer and harder at things. Paul looked at people differently than before, and he also noticed something new. To say it had not been there before would not be accurate, but Paul now saw what he had not noticed before. The light that had blinded him had also revealed something in others.
It is the reason Paul wrote those familiar words to the churches in Corinth. They are probably the most familiar words in all of scripture, where he says in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love never ends." Those words are familiar because we use the word love so often, even about our lunch, as in "I love pastrami more than anything." Those words are familiar because we yearn for a place that is home, where we are known and accepted. Those words are familiar because of the speeches given at rehearsal dinners and the vows spoken at weddings.
Those words are familiar because of the stubbornness of family, who reach out to us, thankfully, even when we want to be left alone. Those words are familiar because of the children in our care, reminding us of the goodness of a love poured out for the sake of another. Those words are familiar because we want to love others well, and when we do, it is reminiscent of the love of God.
We are also familiar with those words because we notice when love is absent in ways that it should always be present, whether it is hidden, neglected, or just struggling to matter, which makes us both thankful for the love we often take for granted and pained for all that is tragic in this world. It is the same reason Paul sent those words to the church in Corinth because Paul was trying to explain what he did not see in the people, not what he did see. Since Paul looked closer and harder, he noticed when love was present and when it was missing.
The churches in Corinth were full of controversy and conflict, so he says with great hope and with great heaviness, "If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." Paul wrote those words because he saw things differently. He saw how a faith that could move a mountain was nothing without love. Paul says those words with hope that the people will be called to more and with heaviness because they lack what is essential.
Paul saw the difference it made when faith was without love, for he learned that we see God in others. The light had blinded him, but it also revealed something to him. Whereas, before he was blinded, he treated others with impatience, resentment, and arrogance. He had rejoiced in wrongdoing, and he had insisted on his own way. After the light of Christ paralyzed his vision, he saw things differently.
Like Paul, we notice when love is missing. We notice its absence in the face of violence and shootings that we are unable to explain to our children. We notice it is missing in the face of hate or neglect towards the suffering of others. We notice it is not there in the face of children who live with hunger and without shelter. We notice its silence in the face of loved ones, who constantly choose sides when family means that everyone is on the same side, even when we disagree. We notice its absence in the face of the Church, which often times projects its arguments onto the world rather than its agreements. Like Paul, we notice when love is missing, struggling, or feels helpless.
After regaining his sight, Paul might have remembered Moses trudging up the mountain to see the glory of God. Moses was unable to see the face of God. No one can see God face-to-face and live, so Moses could not look upon the full glory of God. Paul might have remembered Moses and realized that one way we see portions of the glory of God is in others.
Whenever we look upon others and they remind us that love never ends, we see a glimmer of the love of God and of the grace of Christ. We see the way that Paul started to see. The light of Christ that blinded him revealed that the light of Christ could also be seen in others, so he treated others differently. When we see love missing, we take solace in knowing that love never ends, as Paul says, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
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