There are three words in the Bible that overwhelm me and yet assure me every time I ponder them. Three words that are incredibly powerful and earth shaking. Three words that cause us to shake our head and mumble "It isn't true". Three words we have misunderstood and refused to come to grips with:
"Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8)
How do we deal with this? How can we say that love never fails? How many times has your heart been broken? How many times have you been stabbed in the back by a friend? How many times have you failed to be there for someone? How many times have you allowed vengeance and hatred to overwhelm love? Love never fails? I don't think so.
You don't think it to be true? Then let's start with Paul's definition of love. In fact, we will only consider the last part of this definition:
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
When I read that I think about the countless times I have failed to love my family, friends, and even strangers. Just that one, "always protects", or even "always trusts" causes me to see what an utter failure I have been in the love department. But then again that is the problem; love didn't fail, I failed to love.
If we examine our failures I think we will see clearly that in every case we failed to love the person we failed. Say that out loud with me "Love didn't fail, I failed to love". Let it sink in for a moment. All the troubles, hardships, heartaches, division and separation we have experienced in our life is due to the fact that there was a lack of love involved. Perhaps you wish to argue the point. Well consider that love is not these things:
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
How much of our failure has been caused by self-seeking, even if that means we were seeking to be loved? Love is not a game and it isn't a fuzzy feeling; it is a very serious commitment where we are engaged to pour ourselves out into another person's life. Love is a constant giving, emptying of self but the great thing is that the source of this love is Jesus Christ. The more we give the more he pours back into us. We can't out give God. But understand that love is a conscious decision to speak certain words and take certain actions that flow from this river of love in us.
If you decide to get mad at someone and yell at them, understand you have chosen not to love. If you decide to punish someone by withdrawing your kindness, you have chosen not to love. It you walk away from a friendship out of frustration, you have decided not to love. If you decide to allow differences to build a wall between you and another person, you have chosen not to love. If you decide to shut someone out of your life because of the pain they have caused you, you have chosen not to love.
In all these and many more cases love has not failed, we have. It is when we decide to apply love to every situation and every person that real power begins to flow. The power of forgiveness and reconciliation is mountain moving stuff. The power to bring healing to a broken heart and to build unity among God's people is incredible. What a beautiful thing love is when we apply it. Love never fails.
Just a foot note: We need to always keep in mind that this is the entire point in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Love is the underlying theme throughout the Word of God. The whole point of Jesus is love, "For God so loved the World that he gave ...". Jesus' final command was for us to love as he loved us. Even Paul launched into his definition of love with these words, "And know I will show you the most excellent way". Love is not optional and we must spend our life discovering the depth of it and applying it to everyone we know and meet.