“Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8, emphasis mine)
So, I open with the next verse because it tells an interesting truth regarding church atmosphere. Ideally, a church atmosphere should be one suffused and saturated and steeped in the love of God. This isn’t always the case. And even if there are the outrageous supernatural things mentioned in the above verse happening with frequency, there still, Dear God, could be an absence of the fulness of the love of God. And this is not good.
Prophecies, tongues, knowledge. All these things are and should be pointing to a Person. The prime mover is God–and God is love. The point of these eminently spiritual activities is not to show that “we’ve arrived”, but to live out the love of God in a fuller measure. The circuit is then complete. Paul says plainly that they will “vanish away”.
In closing, a wee anecdote. The symbol _ means “identical to”. Three parallel lines. I would say that the three statements on love as translated in the Amplified Bible are indeed “identical to” the love that Jesus lived out while He walked this earth.
“…and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (2 Corinthians 12:31b)
Paul continues to describe what the love of God looks like when lived out from a pure heart. His first letter to the Corinthians—thirteenth chapter, seventh verse, as translated in the Amplified version—says that “Love endures all things without weakening.”
Did you ever see Unbreakable with Bruce Willis? He plays a lowly security guard who, after surviving a train wreck, discovers that he has super powers. There’s this really cool scene where, after realizing something’s amiss having lived through such a horrific accident, he’s in his basement lifting weights with his young son. His son is spotting him while he’s lying recumbent on his weight bench. Willis’ character (I forget his name) benches the barbell and finds that it’s quite easy, so he has his son add a plate to either side. Again, lifting it turns out to be easy—doable, so he tells his son to add more weight. Add. Lift. Add. Lift. This cycle continues several times. Do you see where this is going and how this applies to the scripture mentioned? Anything that his son adds to the barbell, he’s able to lift. This, after only recently discovering that he had abilities far beyond the average human. God’s love for us and in us enables us to do the same.
“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name.” (Psalm 63:3-4)
God only allows circumstances that we—in love—are able to endure. That question is taken care of with this scripture: “God will not allow you to be tempted (challenged) beyond what you’re able to overcome. He’ll also provide that means of overcoming…” (1 Corinthians 10:13; my translation)
You see, we can take what life tries to throw at us without wavering and weakening in our love. As we live out the love of God toward others (and God and ourselves) we will find that the love we receive from God grows and multiplies. Yet this is life. So much more exciting than the funny books!
In closing, think about what Asaph was going through when he composed Psalm 75. Verse 3 says that “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it.” The pressure he was feeling for whatever reason was immense. Yet God enabled him to bear it. God’s love in our life enables us to do the same.
Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians (13:7) that love “hopeth all things” (KJV) or as the Amplified version has it, “Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances.” This is another wiredrawn distinction about love that deserves some elucidation.
Circumstances are not arbitrary and life is not without direction. Jesus says in the book of Revelation (many times) that He is the “Alpha and Omega” (1:8,11; 21:6; 22:13). This means—among other things—that He is the one who created us and that He is the one whom were living towards whether we know it or not. God is the one “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Paul says to do “all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Jesus says that’s how it already is anyway: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). He’s the “first and the last” (Revelation 1:11). And as He also “is love” (1 John 4:8), then we must realize that part of love means striving to maintain your hope under miserable and even dire circumstances. I will point out that, just because you might be experiencing a hard time or hardship, doesn’t mean that God is angry with you and He certainly didn’t cause the difficulty to arise. God does have something for you to learn during your trials though, I guarantee it. And this is where “love’s hopes” come in. This fact, that life is wrapped up in Jesus, is what gives us hope. Circumstances are transitory, they come and go. (This too shall pass.) The love of God is what makes it possible to not just endure and “hope” that things will get better, but to live in such a way that you see—really see—that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). And as we love and live in God, we will see things turn out for the better. And when you learn that lesson, whatever it may be (it’s yours), from your difficult circumstances, you’ll see that your sufferings weren’t in vain. This is hope, God’s way.
Paul defines love thusly. He says it “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”. At least that’s how the King James puts it (1 Corinthians 13:7)
The Amplified version of the Bible expands on his definition in a beautiful way. Instead of “beareth all things”, it says:
“Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.”
This is powerful. If we could appropriate one quality of love into our life, I would put this at the tippy-top of my list. God believes the best of each and every person on this earth. Current actions and habits notwithstanding, God looks at you and He looks at me and He sees us as we can and will be. This is the very essence of faith. And it’s “faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). Try this on: every person you see today, make a conscious choice to look at them through the eyes of love. God’s love. The kind of love that He’s shown you. When you believe in people and believe they can become everything that God made them to be, God will actually begin working in their life on behalf of your silent intercession. When you (unbeknownst to them) add your faith to their life by loving them with the love of God, their life will change. Don’t worry about the specifics, they’ll come. The Holy Spirit will show you if you need to do something or give something. Until He does though, be present for them. Listen without judgment or reservation. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that do weep.” (Romans 12:15). This honest emotional transparency can only be shown to others as we live our lives in transparency toward God.
This also speaks to longevity and hardship. It might take time for someone to heal or to come to the Lord. Are you “ever ready to believe the best” of them? When the opportunity to doubt comes in and maybe they relapsed into an old habit or thought pattern, will you still look at them with eyes of love and understanding? Or will you begin to harbor doubts and criticism about them? Sure, you might not say anything, but unless you forgive their sin—”considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1)—then that attitude will seep out and more than likely, they’ll pick up on it and be discouraged.
God is always believing the best of us. Let’s refract this light of His love to those with whom we come in contact. And the way to know how to love others is to know how we ourselves are loved—by God.
We’ll look at another one tomorrow. This is enough for one day (and one lifetime).