We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Cor 13:12 (MSG)
In Saint Paul’s “love chapter” Paul provides us with a metaphor to explain our earthly limitations. Life before the resurrection is life lived as though through a mirror dimly.
In context, Paul is speaking about the different aspects of worship that revolve around Scripture; singing, prophecy, preaching. These are gifts to the church to foster and serve love. If love for God and for one another is not the motivation and goal of worship, then it is nothing more than a clanging cymbal; an out-of-place and misleading distraction. T
Paul goes on to say that we see through a mirror dimly because we and our world are infected by sin, despite our standing with Christ. The metaphor calls attention to the limitations of our ability to see and understand. Our vision is impaired, we’re stuck with a foggy overcast that beckons us to humble dependance on God.
A mirror is used to see a reflection–of yourself, of others, of what’s around you. Scripture is the primary mirror that we use to see and know God and ourselves. But my reading of Scripture–and of who God is–is faulty and broken, and until I come to grips with this reality, I will not serve love. The God who Augustine calls, “Ever Ancient Ever New” is boundless and beyond full comprehension by me, and when I ignore my limits, I will become a clanging cymbal.
Today, Christians are bombarded with skepticism around Scripture. We are told not to trust the Bible because it’s archaic and erroneous. The temptation is to defend the Bible’s reliability in ways that ignore human limitations-we insist on the certitude and clarity of Scripture; we simplify what is complex and ignore the impaired capacity of a dim vision, the very thing Scripture attests to!
When I think about the authority of Scripture, I think of its role as firstly attesting to Christ, who is the full and final revelation of who God is, and secondarily in forming God’s people into who they are called to be. As Christians we are often good at bible study: thinking and analyzing what the bible means and what it says, while neglecting what kind of life were called to live. We often make knowledge a virtue, forgetting that it can easily become a vice (1 Cor. 8:1-2). What I want for Christians is to trust in the power of Scripture to shape their lives, perhaps only possible when we get out of the way, when we approach it with humility. Humility and acceptance of the dimness of our vision is where God encounters us and we begin to really, and truly see. That alone will serve love.