The last day in February=the final post in the “Love Is…” series from 1 Cor. 13. Links to the previous posts below.
This phrase, “love never fails”, is one of the most well known in 1 Cor. 13, and so often quoted that the meaning can easily be lost in its catch-phrase status.
Taken simply for how it reads, it sounds like love is invincible, that love always wins, always triumphs, and always meets its objectives. “Love conquers all”. But what does that look like?
Consider this: if “love never fails” means “love always accomplishes what it sets out to do” or some such thing…why is the entire human race not yielded to God by this time? God is love, according to Scripture, and He has made His intentions known: He desires for all to be saved. And yet, despite His constant and relentless love for us all, Scripture also makes it clear that many of us will reject God’s gift of grace and will spend eternity apart from Him. In other words…God is not going to get everything He wants from this. So does that mean that love “failed”? Or does it mean something else?
The Strong’s Concordance uses the following descriptions for the Greek word translated “fails”: “to drop away; to be driven out of one’s course; to lose, become inefficient.” This speaks of a constancy in love that stands above time, trial and circumstance. I see this as saying that love is always relevant, never wavers, is unmoveable, no matter what tries to push it out of place.
I see it also as saying that love will never pass away–that love is eternal.
Very much the description of God’s love for us, isn’t it? This is how love never fails–it is relentless and steadfast, even when attacks are launched against it, even when attempts are made to destroy it. God’s love is unconditional, and that is what makes it eternal. Fail-proof.
The ramifications of this are far-reaching, for it means that this kind of love isn’t the kind people fall into and out of. This perception implies that love is fleeting, a feeling or emotion over which we have little or no control. But the reality is…true love is a choice. And with the choice to love unconditionally comes a commitment to be steadfast in that choice.
This, in a paradoxical way, also explains why such a perfect love will not win all mankind to Christ, and why God will not get everything He wants. Love is a choice, and that means that people must be free to choose it–and that also means people must be free NOT to choose it. God may be sovereign and omnipotent, but the one thing He will not tamper with is a person’s free will. Unless a person is free to choose love, it is not really love at all.
This understanding that “love never fails” encourages me that in a world filled with variables, I can always count on the love of Christ. No matter how bad I mess up…and even if I reject His love…it will never waver in its invitation to me. It also challenges me that this is the way I should love others. It should not be based on certain conditions being met by the other person. It should not be based on a fleeting feeling (although feelings will accompany love). And it cannot be based on my finite abilities. (Love may never fail, but I have failed many times to love.) Rather, it must be based on a choice to live in the unfailing love of God, to reciprocate that love, and to share it with others, trusting God to be strong when I am weak.
An ambitious goal for someone like me, but something I truly desire. Thank God that it doesn’t depend on my own abilities, but on His.
Because love never fails.