By Ben Hoerr – Over these last few weeks, we’ve been looking closely at what “Love is . . .” according to one definition found in 1 Corinthians 13. Today we’ll be looking at verse 7 which says, “Love keeps going to the end.”
This past April, our 30-year old daughter-in-law Kara overcame a year-long, debilitating, and a nearly career-ending knee injury to run her 3rd Boston Marathon—a 26.2 mile race that stretches from between Hopkinton, Massachusetts and Copley Square in Boston. She finished in a time of 3 hours, 25 minutes, which was 7,779 overall and 1,525 among 11,970 women! She’s now on to competing in triathlons and Midwestern marathons, and I never cease to be amazed at her fierce drive and incredible athleticism.
But Kara had plenty of company in Boston. There were 30,234 other competitors, and the oldest female to run was Katherine Beiers—the 82-year old former mayor of Santa Cruz, California. She was running her 12th Boston and completed 5 hours after the elite runners finished. When asked the secret to her running longevity, she responded: “Just keep running!” Katherine’s inspiring story encourages all of us to keep going to the end!
That’s what God’s kind of love does. It keeps loving until the end of the race of life. It keeps loving no matter what may come. One translation of 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love endures through every circumstance.” (New Living Translation) Another reads, “Never gives up.” (New International Reader’s Version)
There are many things that have the potential to derail our love for others, aren’t there? People can hurt us, fail to keep their promises, gossip untruthfully, take advantage of us. They can ignore our attempts at kindness, never reciprocate, or even betray our trust. And there are many other actions, attitudes, and circumstances that could cause us to think or say, “OK, I’ve had enough. I’m done loving so-and-so.” Such behaviors can catalyze a breaking off of relationship, an intentional separation or pulling away from others, or even a divorce in a marriage, a dissolution of a business partnership, or leaving a church.
But God’s love for all people everywhere is unconditional. That is, his love for us isn’t based on how good we are, or if we are fully obedient, as in, “If we’re good, God will love us, but if we’re bad or disobedient, He won’t.” As the song lyrics declare, “[His] love is amazing, steady and unchanging, [His] love is a mountain, firm beneath our feet.” I’m reminded of the Apostle Peter who denied he even knew Jesus three times in his trials. Yet Jesus unconditionally loved Peter, forgave him, and fully restored him to relationship and ministry afterwards! Jesus’ love for Peter—and for all of us—is not based on our abilities, or strengths, or behavior. Thanks be to God for this.
Since God lives in his children through the Holy Spirit, we are enjoined by scripture to love others with this same kind of unconditional love. We are to love until the very end. There is to be no hurdle or barrier in the race of life that keeps us from loving others. To be sure, this means that we’ll have to regularly forgive others for the things they do or say. But with help from the Holy Spirit—whom the Bible calls The Helper, and whose fruit, or effect, is love—we can forgive others and keep loving them. It might be helpful to think of forgiveness as the “oil” that keeps the “gears” of loving relationships operating smoothly without “locking up” thus enabling us to keep loving until the end.
In my 8th grade year at Kellar Central Schol, we had track and field day. I’m not sure why, but I signed up for the 100-yard hurdles. This was somewhat preposterous since I had never so much as crawled over a hurdle, much less jumped over one. Nevertheless, when it was my heat in the hurdles, I was shocked to discover I lined up next to Ed Foster, who was the fastest runner in the class. We crouched down and waited for the starters signal. When the gun cracked, we both jumped off the starting line. I raced towards that 1st hurdle as fast as my chubby little legs would go. I planted my left foot and jumped, only to crash right into the crossbar of that hurdle. I crumpled onto the track cinders in a heap. Feigning an injury to protect my pride, I rolled over on my side, and quit the race. I’m embarrassed to tell the story, but as I look back on it now, I learned an important lesson about life. Real love doesn’t ever quit the race after hitting a hurdle. It keeps running until the very end!