Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child. We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known. So there abide faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Cor. 13:8-13.)
This is another one of those passages that I have read a hundred times, but this past Sunday during Mass its meaning struck me in a new way. What I had never noticed before, was that the reading is a series of contrasts between the perfect and the imperfect (with “perfect” having the connotation of “complete” or “fulfilled”):
When I was a child, I spoke, felt, thought as a child (imperfect); now that I have grown up, I have put away the things of a child (perfect).
We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner (imperfect); but then face to face (perfect).
Now I know in part (imperfect), but then I shall know even as I am known (perfect) (since God knows us perfectly).
We all know about faith, hope, and love, and how the greatest of these is love. But why is it the greatest? Because love is perfect, whereas faith and hope are imperfect. “[W]hen that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.”
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part” illustrates the imperfection of faith and hope: They are both forms of partial knowledge: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) It’s what we have when we can’t see the object of faith directly; we know “as through a mirror, in an obscure manner.” Charity is the real deal, right here and now, and will remain so even in eternity; whereas faith and hope will have lost their usefulness.
This is a teaching about love, but it’s also a teaching about eternity, the afterlife, heaven, which will be a state of perfection, again, in the sense of completeness. What we wonder about, hope and strive for, will no longer be matter for hoping and striving since it will all be fulfilled. Everything imperfect will be done away with, including the virtues of faith and hope; but if even faith and hope will be useless, what will be the point of worrying and working and striving?
Thus, heaven will not be a state of striving to achieve, but a state of rest; not a state of imperfection, but a state of perfection; with nothing yet to be achieved, but all things fulfilled.
(This last point is further to my post “Does Mormonism offer more (after death) than mainstream Christianity?“)