I recently was scrolling through the internet and came across a post stating this, “Love (God’s love) never fails.” Of course, this is based on 1 Corinthians 13:8, and I was not in disagreement with the statement, but did not think it spoke of the entirety of the case. For me, you can say something and imply something else whether you’ve meant to or not. In this case, I felt it would leave people with this conclusion: God’s love is the only love which cannot fail. The problem with this thinking is love has been reduced to something God does better than anyone else rather than understanding love is a quality of God’s nature (1 John 4:8). It becomes a matter then to what capacity can I take on the nature of God in regards to love.
First off, Paul has begun this section speaking of the need to possess love or else tongues, prophecy, knowledge and even having great faith or giving to the poor will have little value. The problem in Corinth was the believers there placed more emphasis on the gifts than on love. If Paul is exhorting them to love then surely he isn’t encouraging them to love within the capacity of normal fallen human love! It would be difficult to make the point that Paul was encouraging them to love in a way which was anything but how God has loved each of us.
A quality of real, authentic love is its unfailing nature. It is not a quality of godly love to fail although it is a quality of earthly love to fail. Just because the believer is in the world, he is not of the world, and since his love must follow a pattern…..it should be the pattern of God’s love. What this means is I may be here on earth, but my love does not have to be reduced to the limited love demonstrated here. Ask yourself this….earthly fathers will not withhold anything from their children. If their child has a need, or they have something in their possession which would benefit their children then a good father will give it. If we are God’s children, will He not also give to us what we need, and even more than this, as children, we begin to take on His character. If His character is the basis of love, my character can also change to resemble His. (Matt. 7:11; Romans 12:2) If we are having difficulty understanding this concept then we have overlooked the transformative power salvation has within the lives of those who are truly saved.
But isn’t it impossible for us to love the way God loves because we are human and fallen? If this was even remotely true then why would Jesus say to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34) It seems unlikely that Jesus, who loved perfectly since He is God in the flesh, would command error-prone men to love as He loves them if it were not possible for them to actually succeed. After all, if they did not love one another as Christ loved them (and this applies to the present church) the world would have a difficult time knowing they were His disciples. Love would characterize them as His disciples.
We do have the capacity, as the children of God who have been transformed by salvation, to love as God loves, and we are commanded to do it. Our thinking that we have no ability to love as God has loved us probably stems from a misunderstanding of what genuine love is. We can make excuses for why we don’t, won’t, or can’t possibly love certain people or decide to obey the LORD’s command, and love one another as He has first loved us. If He told us to do it, then it isn’t impossible, but we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.