Everything dies. Entropy, the movement from order to disorder, is the nature of the universe. That’s a rather dark way of starting an article about agape love. But in 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul makes this startling declaration – Love never fails (nasb), love will last forever (nlt), love never ends (esv), love never dies (msg). Love never suffers from entropy. Perhaps I can say it another way – love is never the wrong answer.
While 1 Corinthians 13 is often recited with a view of romantic love in the context of marriage, Paul’s purpose and viewpoint were the relationships and order between one another in church and by extension towards all.
Throughout this chapter, Paul is providing a corrective course for the Corinthians by emphasizing love above everything else that seemed important as they gathered in Christ’s name. For the Corinthians, those important things included speaking in tongues, prophecy, spiritual knowledge, faith, and sacrificial giving. In your church, it may be other things such as worship music, doctrinal viewpoints, works of service, symbolisms of faith (or the lack thereof), and spiritual heritage. None of these, Paul declares, are as important as love.
Paul concludes that all those other “important” things will eventually die or fade away. When Christ returns, when all things are fulfilled, we will see them all as children’s toys. Paul isn’t saying “no” to any of those things but puts them in their proper order and place behind faith, hope, and love. The measure of our faith is not our spiritual gifts, our knowledge of the Bible, our ability to speak God’s message, or our giving – it is our love.
Love is the hallmark and pinnacle of discipleship (see John 13:35). Yet, we are easily side-tracked by so many things. Controversies and inter-fellowship arguments ranging from what color to paint the walls, to which English translation to use, to worship style, to how to evangelize, to spiritual disciplines, to doctrinal purity – none of which rises to or above the level of loving one another. Neither does love end when we leave the church building. In many ways, our gatherings and relationships inside the walls are a crucible to prepare us to love those outside the walls.
It’s generally now that the “what about” questions where love doesn’t seem to be the right answer come up. What about that grumpy and bitter person whom we fear a smile would break their face? What about the rebellious youngster? Or how about the person who flaunts their sinful lifestyle? The driver that cuts us off in traffic? It can’t mean those who squander God’s goodness, can it? Surely there must be an exception for that person who always rubs us the wrong way? You know who I’m talking about. What about the enemies of our faith in Jesus? This can’t include them?
Love is never the wrong answer – Love is always the right answer. It is never out of place or out of order. Neither does love fail. Unlike romantic love and brotherly love, this kind of love never ends. Never gives up. It outlasts everything else. Love carries forward into eternity. We are to love all, including all those “what about them” suggested above. How are we to love? Now, that is a worthy question that requires the journey of a lifetime to fully discover the answer. But the first step of that journey is always choosing love. Love never fails and is always the right answer.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a, NASB95)