Love never fails. That is what I Corinthians 13:8 begins with. As defined in this same chapter love is:
Patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrongs suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, love never fails…
Clearly my love fails. Just this morning alone, walking with a friend, I was jealous and spoke without discretion which to me is the same as acting unbecomingly. I want to communicate the love of Jesus to this friend, but I fear my love failed. It failed to rejoice in the truth, because no truth was mentioned, it failed to believe all things, because I failed to believe that God could speak to the heart of my friend. My love failed, because I was more concerned with being accepted by my friend than I was about honoring my God. How ashamed I come away feeling after I fail so miserably.
Obviously God is not speaking about my love in His definition, it most truly is His love that He describes. I do rejoice in the knowledge that I cannot be separated from His love, even when I behave so disappointingly. I bow my head, confess my failure, and wait as His love cleanses me of all unrighteousness. Oh, that there is such a God and I do not shout from the rooftops that He has sought me out and forgiven me and made me His own child. He has freed me and given my joy wings! What holds me back?
The love of God saved me from the despair, anger and rejection that defined my childhood. He spoke words of acceptance, forgiveness and love to my desperate heart in my adolescence. His love blessed me with every good gift in my early adulthood. And now as I reach the later years of my life, I see how His great love has covered my sin – my deceitful heart, my ungrateful attitudes, my critical nature. I look back over these 50 plus years and I see that His love has not failed me. He has repeatedly saved me, healed me, spared me, comforted me, guided me, and rebuked me, all for the purpose of making me more like Himself.
The funny thing is (and maybe funny is really not the appropriate word), that this is the kind of love that everyone in this world is truly seeking and rejecting at the same time. The fairytale stories that win the hearts of young girls everywhere long for a love that hopes all things, bears all things, and endures all things – isn’t that what ‘happily ever after’ really means? Don’t we all wish for a love that is patient with us, kind, true, and faithful? Yet we reject this unconditional love of God and seek the love the world offers. And what kind of love is that exactly?
Well, as I see it, the world tells us that love is not patient – it desires instant gratification at the expense of commitment, security, and kindness. Young women and men are told that it is natural and good to experiment sexually with many partners with no thought of long-term commitment. Then they walk away from the experience feeling used, abused, broken, cheap, unclean, and hopeless. Where is the kindness, where is the patience, where is the satisfaction?
Men and women desperately look for the kind of love God describes – if there were a Bachelor on one of those shows that displayed the discrete, sacrificial, humble, love of God, the women would do anything to win his affection.
We should get it, but we don’t because we can’t. In the same way my love failed this morning. My love is insufficient, but God’s is sufficient. My love is selfish, but God’s love is humble and seeks not its own. My love is jealous, but God’s love is available to all without partiality. My love has a long memory of wrongs suffered and is slow to forgive, God’s love forgives and then believes all things and hopes all things.
That God would transform my love into His love…
Remarkably that is just what He has promised to do, and that is wherein my hope lies.
Jesus prays to His Father on the eve of his crucifixion, “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)
…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.