Love Never Gives Up

by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates

Editor's note: This concludes our series, in which Dr. Zodhiates has elaborated on the Apostle Paul's description of love as the supreme Christian evidence. #/"Love never faileth …" /#(1 Cor. 13:8). Love cannot always accomplish what it would like to in the lives of others in this world. But the love of God in us must be judged not so much by what it does as by what it longs for and tries to do. #/"For love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God"/# (1 John 4:7). Love transforms the base charcoal of human nature into the diamond that reflects the radiance of duty. When the Apostle John said that Christ loved His own #/"unto the end" /#(John 13:1, eís télos), he was obviously referring to Christ's love to the very end of His earthly sojourn, and to His death on the cross. There He redeemed mankind as the great prize given to Him for His love. As John looked back, that unfailing love seemed marvelous indeed, for humanly speaking they had given Christ cause enough to stop loving them. They had let Him down, squabbled, schemed, and sulked. He knew even then how near they all were to running away in the hour of danger, how one would betray and another deny Him. Yet through everything, to the very end, He loved them. Human love does not often go that far. Most people fail to love to the end. They love expecting love and appreciation in return, and when it does not come, they stop. They put a strict limit on their forgiveness, not forgiving seventy times seven--probably no more than once or twice. After that they are finished, and love changes to indifference or hatred. Even a mother's love may fail, a father's heart be closed against an obdurate child. I'm afraid many of us wash our hands and resort to the less irksome path far too rapidly. It was easier for Pilate to wash his hands of Jesus than to get mixed up with the trial of the Man he knew to be innocent. But Christians are to be motivated by the love of Him who loves to the uttermost, not by the expediency that shrinks from suffering and personal sacrifice. Paul is not describing our ordinary human love in 1 Corinthians 13 but the love of Christ Himself, when he says, #/"Love never faileth."/# Human love often fails-Christ's never. Christ's love lasted on, "even to the edge of doom," to the courtyard of the high priest's house, to Gethsemane, to Calvary, right through to the resurrection. #/"Having loved his own . . . he loved them unto the end"/# (John 13:1). Most men would not consider love as powerful as brute force. Because of this, many men are at least potential warriors, who believe that "might makes right." Sheer force can change many things indeed, possibly even the outward manifestations of God's love. but it cannot change the love of God in itself. How well it has been said, "Christian love is that something without which everything else is nothing, and which would be self-sufficient, even were it alone. It is not merely an attribute of God; it is His very nature." Force may succeed in achieving its immediate ends, but love redeems. Where force fails, love stands a chance. And even when it has tried to redeem and has seemingly failed, it never ceases to be redeeming love. History and experience witness to the fact that love does not always and immediately win. While as idealists we would like to see love conquer all, let us not forget that realism is the twin sister of idealism. Face what must be faced, not what you would like to believe. "At the center of human history is a cross on a hill, outside a city wall. That cross is the corrective of so many false views about life, force, punishment. There we have love at its highest and noblest, yet Love crucified, Love denied, Love spurned" (R. Morton Stanley, in "Love Invincible," Christian World Pulpit, 90). However, love gloriously conquered, in that Christ redeemed as His prize a vast number of men, so many that only God can count them. Many parents in every generation could tell the same sad, depressing story of love defeated. "When [the son] attained the years of manhood he threw overboard the burden of good and escaped into a life of license and debauchery. [The child] doesn't always come back; and mother and father go down to the grave in sorrow and despair" (ibid.) But has love really failed? Love is not defeated unless and until it ceases to be love. In God's sight your love has achieved its highest purpose when by faith it goes on loving in the face of rejection, for then you are most like Christ at Calvary. Christ conquered, and in some way you will conquer also. Christ's love overcame many sinners. He prayed for them even as they crucified Him; now we know His prayer was gloriously answered, and His love continues to seek and to save the wayward and the lost. Grieving heart, go on praying, hoping, believing; but above all go on loving to the uttermost, for this is what it is to be like Christ, whose love never fails. In a way known perhaps only to God, you will win out in the end. Whatever today is not well, by God's power will become well, though we cannot fully comprehend how this is so or how God will make it so. © From To Love Is to Live, an exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 13, 1967, revised 1998. Available from AMG Publishers