the conclusion of st. paul's list of characteristics of love in first corinthians puzzles me. what does it mean that "love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things?" the new international version has the passage translated, "it [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres," and the phillips translation says, "love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything." the idea of love bearing all things or enduring all things isn't problematic; love, both that of God and the love that is a part of our being, should help us to face the problems of life with greater success. if we say that love believes all things, do we mean that love has no doubts or that love accepts all dogmas without question or is unending trust, as in the niv and phillips versions, a better way of understanding the second phrase in the list? in the same way, if we accept that love hopes all things, do we have an unrealistic outlook that hopes everything we wish for will be ours or is the idea of a hope that never fades as suggested in the phillips translation the best way of looking at the list's third phrase?
does the sum of these four phrases mean that love is optimistic and accepting? is paul suggesting that the love which flows through all creation and which is a part of our basic nature helps us overcome the transitory difficulties of life with endurance, trust, hope, and perseverance? i especially like the last phrase in the phillips translation: "[love] can outlast anything," the phillips translation ends paul's list of love's characteristics with this complementary sentence: "[love] is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen." for me, this is the great summation of all the characteristics of love; everything else is subsidiary to love. love is the great constant that transcends suffering, that makes life worthwhile. it is the beginning and the end, the only reason for living, the very essence of all that is.
may we each be open to love. may we give and receive love. may we see that love transcends suffering and evil. may we become love. shalom.