Despite what Paul declares says in I Corinthians 13, love fails to do many things we wish it would. Love, no matter how intense and sacrificial, can’t always heal a sick child or a parent dying of cancer. Love, no matter how patient and long-suffering, sometimes fails to break the chains of addiction that enslave those we love. Love doesn’t always guarantee the salvation of our children. God’s love, perfect in every way, did not keep Adam and Eve from sinning.
When I teach persuasive writing, I tell my students to be cautious of absolute statements like “love never fails.” I explain that as soon as readers think of exceptions to our absolute declarations, we lose credibility. And as I have pointed out, there are many areas where love seems to fail. These failures are heart-breaking. When parents stand over the grave of a child they loved and prayed for, it is hard to believe that love never fails. It can become hard to believe God.
Yet, in many important ways Paul is right, “Love never fails.” In every situation, love never fails to be the best choice. Choosing to love in the face of injustice never fails to be better than becoming bitter. In the face of loss and discouragement, love never fails to be better than retreat and withdrawal. Love never fails to make the worst situations better.
Love also succeeds where other good things fail. This is the emphasis of Paul in verse 8 where he goes on to explain, “but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” Paul begins the next chapter with exhortation to “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” It is clear, therefore, that Paul considered the gifts of the Holy Spirit important. Yet, all our prophecy and knowledge is partial, incomplete. Wisdom has value but will never be perfect and is always approximate. Love, however, never fails.
Love never fails to have eternal value. Our hearts and acts of love never go unnoticed by God. Time spent loving those who never respond to our love is never wasted time. It is perhaps when loving the defiant and unresponsive that we get closest to being like God who sent His Son to die for us when we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). Like salt and light, love acts in ways we don’t see and reaches places we can’t go.
Love never fails to be the best choice for health of heart and wholeness of soul. Many at the end of their lives regret the grudges they have held, the relationships they have neglected, the bitterness they have nursed, but no one has ever said, “I wish I had loved less and forgiven fewer.”Love never fails to bless us with a clear conscience and the peace of knowing we have loved people to the very end. When we love, we escape the torment of regrets and lost opportunities. Our heart is enlarged to love with greater strength, endurance, and depth.
I also believe love never fails to bear fruit—even if we can’t see it. Even those who in anger and rebellion run from God will be haunted by memories of being loved. In their darkest moments, memories of acts and words of kindness work powerfully against the lies of sin and Satan. Memories of love can awaken the heart of the prodigal to return to the loving arms of their Heavenly Father—even if their earthly father has died.
Yes, love fails to fix everything and everyone around us. Love, because it is love, will not over-rule the free will of those intent on self-destruction and sin. But love will never stop pursuing them, whispering, or sometimes shouting the truth of God’s love. God’s love will speak when our love fails to find the words.
Love will never fail to catch the eye and blessing of God. Love will always be light in darkness, hope in the storm.