German chemist Justus von Liebig invented a silver-backed glass mirror in 1835. This new process led to affordable mass-marketed mirrors that could be owned by the average person. Until then, mirrors had been costly and not terribly reflective. It was difficult to see one’s own reflection while indoors, especially if you depended on illumination by candlelight.
The apostle Paul describes us as image-bearers of our Creator. Our reading for today immediately follows the discussion about diversity in the body of Christ. It’s no accident that Paul transitions from the subject of unity and diversity to an exploration of godly love. The Corinthians were grappling for status. Instead, God called them to reflect His character and to love one another as He has loved us.
Without love, even our spiritual gifts will be diminished. If we do not have love, we are nothing and we gain nothing (vv. 2–3). God’s love, reflected in us, is patient, kind, humble, and enduring (vv. 4–8). Love never seeks to promote one’s own interests or gifts at the expense of another. Love never fights for status or hierarchy.
Verse 12 compares our present existence to looking in a mirror. Just as old mirrors reflected images that were dark and difficult to see, we are not able to fully realize God’s purpose for us in this lifetime. But this vision problem is temporary. Now, we see in part, like looking into a dim mirror. But, when we are reunited with God, our knowledge will be complete. We will know God, and He will know us. While in this present condition, we struggle to understand our own purpose and to feel connected and understood by those around us. One day, we will know fully, just as we are known.