LOVE NEVER FAILS
Years ago, there was a phrase that caught my attention in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. God is speaking to His people and He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” I felt compelled to learn what this word, “everlasting” really meant. I studied it and cross-referenced it and didn’t really find anything that I hadn’t thought of before. In the end, I decided that, perhaps, I had just been meant to meditate on this concept for a while.
Throughout the years of my life and, specifically, since I did that little study, the topic of love has been a constant one. Through the changing seasons, the dark ones and the light, it seemed to me that Love itself was becoming more and more real and tangible, like a distant approaching shore after a lifetime at sea.
We engage in conversations about what love is, from the counterfeit love we’ve been brainwashed to strive for: that powerful, driving, fleeting emotion that invades our worlds unexpectedly and then creeps away while we’re asleep; to the love that is planted in a mother’s heart at the moment of conception and burrows a space in her heart for her unborn child that can never be filled by anyone else; to the love that forgives family and friends even when they don’t deserve it; to the love that sees the future—that bright and glorious hope that sometimes only you can see.
To the Love that called out to us when we were lost and on a path that led from heartache to heartache. The Love that called us home.
And then there’s this elusive love that we are supposed to choose when we’re married. To stay in love because we’re married, not the other way around. What is that love? And how do you choose it? Does it mean you keep putting the other person first and striving to protect them no matter what? No matter how you feel?
Passionate love. The love of a friend. The love of a brother. The love of a father. These are some of the different kinds of love the writers of the scriptures talk about. I think these are all faces of the same Love. These are some of the ways we humans have described what we saw when we glimpsed Him.
I believe there is a force that drives creation and all of heaven and that that force is called Love. God calls Himself Love. It is not a feeling, although there is an emotion that reflects it. It is not the will to sacrifice, although that determination will rise in response to it. It is an entity. It exists. It drives like a rush of unstoppable water bursting from a hole in a damn and a ray of light from the sun.
It is a current that has always existed and will always exist. A frequency that will never stop reverberating inside and outside of eternity. We are fumbling toward this knowledge; groping in the dark. When we think we have grasped onto love, we might wake up and find we were wrong. Whatever it was we thought we had found has escaped us.
There is a passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that I have heard read perhaps more than any other. I think what Paul describes here is the best picture of Love that I’ve seen:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I’ve heard this dozens of times and read it even more. When I read it again recently, what stood out to me most was this: Love never fails. And I remembered my study on everlasting love. What was this word, “fail”? Did it mean that, as long as I was operating in true, pure love, then whatever outcome I was hoping for would come about?
The word translated as “fail” is from a Greek word piptō. The most common meanings are: “To fall (literally or metaphorically), to be thrust down, to be prostrated, to bow, to perish, to lose authority, or to be removed from power by death.”
Love never fails.
And I began to realize something that I hadn’t grasped years before when I’d meditated on “everlasting love.” Love never fails. It is a force that doesn’t falter, doesn’t waiver, doesn’t stop. Everything else around us in this fallen, dimly-lit world will fall away. But Love will not.
One of the most common driving forces in the world is fear. Fear drives our choices in relationships, our decisions for our children, our finances, and our futures. Sometimes fear seems insurmountable. But Love is stronger than fear.
The book of First John is an excellent one to read about love. In chapter four, John writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
Perfect Love banishes fear. Fear falters. Love does not falter. Love never prostrates itself to fear.
This goes well beyond passionate, self-gratifying pursuits and feelings of ecstasy. Love does not seek its own. Love overtakes you in a way that lust can never counterfeit. Lust overtakes you with various obsessions that promise to heal life’s hurts or make things better for you. Love drives nails into its own hands to heal the pain of others.
It cannot. It’s not in its nature.
When Love starts to run through your centre; when it starts to course through your veins; when you start to realize that Love is a Person and that He has taken up residence in your spirit, you will find yourself being transformed. He will begin to burn away the sorrow that has covered you like sap. You will return to who you were in the beginning. The amnesia will begin to lift and others will become more important. You will stop needing to defend yourself. You will stop being ruled by fear. Faith and hope will become byproducts of the Love that drives your waking hours and bathes you in peace while you sleep.
This is the Love that He offers us. This is the Love that He is. Never-failing.
It may be difficult and even treacherous to make your way into the current I am talking about here. It might cost you something. It might cost you everything. There will be debris that cuts you on the way. But, once you have been found by it—by Him—He will overtake you. He will change your life.
In 1994, a young man sat at the back of a revival service and wept bitterly. When a concerned brother crouched beside him and asked him if he was okay, he replied, “It’s the only way to live.”
Love undoes you. Love heals you. Love costs you. Love fills you to overflowing. Love gives when there’s nothing in it for the giver. Love whispers, “Not my will, but Thine.”
Bears all things.
Believes all things.
Hopes all things.
Endures all things.
Love. Never. Fails.