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 the “love chapter” Paul provides a beautiful metaphor to explain our earthly limitations. As long as we await Christ’s second coming, life is experienced as through a mirror dimly.
Paul is talking about the different parts of worship that revolve around scripture; singing, tongues, 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.
Paul goes on to say that we see through a mirror dimly because we are still infected by sin, despite our standing with Christ. The metaphor calls attention to the act of seeing, not to the mirror itself: we do not see a “dim mirror.” It is the act of seeing which is limited by dimness-a foggy overcast that beckons us to humility.
A mirror is used to see a reflection–of yourself, of others, of what’s around you. Scripture is the mirror that we see in order to know God and to know ourselves; it is the breathed out words of God that are without error and profitable for training in righteousness. But my reading of Scripture is faulty and broken, and until I come to grips with this reality, I will not serve love. Without an awareness that I am unable to know and interpret Scripture in its entirety, I will be 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 will be 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.
Some are afraid of the uncertainty of what I am proposing. Don’t we want people to be confident in the reliability and authority of Scripture? Yes. But what is the purpose of the authority of Scripture but to form God’s people into who they were called to be? What I want for Christians is to trust in the power of Scripture to shape their lives; and that we don’t need to know all the answers for that to happen. Perhaps the power of the Scriptures–its authority to shape our lives–is only effective when we approach it with humility. Uncertainty is what compels faith, and it is in the uncertainty–in the dimness of our vision–that God encounters us and we begin to really, and truly see. That alone will serve love.