Failure permeates our lives and societies.
We fail in a task; someone lets us down; a crucial piece of equipment fails; a government, bank, or other stable institution collapses. We don’t have to live very long before we learn about failure.
Is it possible that something exists that never fails?
"Love never fails."
Some think I’m wrong to include this as the 16th quality of love.
There are several reasons why I have included it. Here are a few.
First, each of these 16 qualities is an action word—a verb.
Second, each of these 16 verbs is in the present tense—what love looks like here and now.
Third, each of these verbs is in the indicative mood signifying certainty—not ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ or ‘buts.’
Fourth, the verbs following this 16th quality shift from the present into the future.
My fifth reason is the definite jarring certainty of this quality.
Love always … always … always … always … never!
The term translated “never” is oudepote. It combines oude (not even) and pote (at any time), meaning “not at any time,” “in no circumstances,” “never.”
“Never” complements the prior assurances of “always.” Here is how the New International Version renders our text:
Love never fails.
So, I include “love never fails” as the 16th and concluding quality. Of course, it is also a transition into what follows.
The word “fails” translates the Greek verb piptō, which is found three other times in 1 Corinthians as “fall” (10:8, 12; 14:25).
One Greek-English dictionary (BDAG) defines piptō as things, especially structures that fall, fall to pieces, collapse, go down. Revelation 16:19 reports, “the cities of the nations collapsed [piptō].”
So, Paul tells us that at no time and under no circumstances does love fail, fall to pieces, cease, or collapse. Love never fails!
You may wonder about human relationships that end in conflict, ugliness, unpleasantness, nastiness, and hostility. For instance, a marriage ends with irreconcilable differences and divorce. Hasn’t love failed in those circumstances?
In response, I ask, is it love that has failed people, or is it people who have failed to love?
Consider the relationship of many people with God. A person may be openly hostile toward God. Has love failed in that situation, or has the person failed to love? For sure, God still loves that person.
Consider the ugliness, unpleasantness, nastiness, hostility, and cruelty directed at Jesus. Did Jesus cease loving? Did love fall apart? No, it was his antagonists who failed to love.
Perhaps the better question is, “How can I love like Jesus?”
We have now examined each of the 16 qualities of agapē-love in 1 Corinthians 13.
I encourage you to memorize these qualities and then meditate on them—think deeply about them. It might help to re-read each of the posts. I have collected them in order as the resource “16 Qualities of Love.”
Be intentional about assessing how you interact or react to other people. Are your actions, reactions, and attitudes consistent with these 16 qualities?
Are you asking, “How can I love like that?”
Perhaps our next study about the person and activities of the Holy Spirit will be the way forward for you.
I conclude with Lewis Smedes’ description of agapē-love as “the liberating power that moves us toward our neighbor with no demand for rewards.” That means loving like Jesus.
Image credit: photo of a poster by HC Brands (https://www.hcbrands.com)
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