Love Never Fails

August 20, 2017

Well it’s been fifty years.  Fifty years ago in Canada we celebrated our
Centennial.  Fifty years ago the Beatles released
Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  Fifty years ago Interracial Marriage was declared constitutional
by The United States Supreme Court
.  Fifty years ago Elvis married Priscilla.  Fifty years ago was the
last time the Leafs won the Stanley cup and
fifty years ago San Francisco experienced
the Summer of Love.
The
Summer of Love was the name given to the influx of over 100,000 young people,
so called hippies and flower children, in the Haigh Asbury district of San
Francisco during the summer of 1967.
Many saw
this event as a turning point in American culture, and which way American
culture  turned depends on your
perspective.
This
summer at Cornerstone we have decided to celebrate the Summer of Love by
focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, which as been called the Love Chapter of the
Bible.  And through the summer we’ve been
taking the opportunity to read all 13 verses together.  This morning we are going to read it in
unison.  Please stand with me as we take
the opportunity to read God’s word.
1
Corinthians 13:1-13  
If I could speak all
the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I
understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had
such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be
nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my
body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained
nothing.  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or
proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and
it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice
but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up,
never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
 
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special
knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!  Now our
knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only
part of the whole picture!  But when full understanding comes, these
partial things will become useless.  When I was a child, I spoke and
thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish
things.  Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we
will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and
incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows
me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and
the greatest of these is love.
Thank you, you may be seated.
Over the past several weeks we have looked at the
positive attributes of love, culminating last week with the statement that Love
never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every
circumstance.  And that is often easier said than it is lived out in our
daily lives when sometimes things get tough. 
This week things change and we are moving from the
attributes of love to the permanence  of
Love.  
1 Corinthians 13:8-10  Prophecy and
speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But
love will last forever!  
Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of
prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when full
understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.
It would appear that the
believers in Corinth had been ranking each other based on their spiritual
gifts.  Those who had the gift of
knowledge or prophecy or speaking in tongues were seen by some as being further
up the spiritual food chain, so to speak. 
I’m so glad that doesn’t happen today. 
And Paul lets them know that those
things won’t last. 
That there would come a day
that all the prophecies would have been fulfilled.   And there would be no need for the gift of prophecy.

That there would come a day when there would be no need to speak in or be able
to understand unknown languages because we would all be speaking the language
of heaven.   And there would be no need for the gift of
tongues.

And that there would come a
day when we would know all things, that no one person or one group would be
able to claim a corner on knowledge.  And
there would be no need for the gift of knowledge.
But Paul tells us that even
when all that happens, and it doesn’t matter if you think the fulfilment will
come at your point of death or at the return of Christ, that there is one thing
that won’t change and that is the love that God shows us
and that is the love that God expects us to show others.  
The New Living Translation of
the Bible has been our translation of choice at Cornerstone for the past
fifteen years or so but there are some passages where that I think some of the
other translations do a little better job. 
Not with accuracy so much as with style. 
And verse 8 is one of those times.
However the New International
Version and the New King James Translation begin with these word.
1 Corinthians 13:8  Love never fails.   
Which technically means the same
as Love will last forever, but somehow seems more powerful. 
But what does that mean?  Does it mean that you will never fall out of
love?  Does it mean that you will never
doubt your love?  Does it mean that you
will never hurt or offend the ones you claim to love?
If that is the case then we’re
in trouble.  Because people do fall out
of love, we sometimes doubt our love and there are times that we offend and
even hurt the ones we love. 
Intentionally or unintentionally. 
So how do we reconcile the
scriptural promise of “Love Never Fails” with the life reality of the fact that
“Love sometimes does Fail”?
Two things to keep in
mind.  The first is we need to understand
the Love that Paul is talking about.  He’s
not talking about the love you feel for your parents or children, or he would
have used the
Greek word Storge which is
translated “love”. 
He’s
not talking about the love you feel for your BFF or he would have used the Greek
word Philia which is translated “love”. 
And he’s not even talking
about the love you feel for your spouse, even though 1 Corinthians 13 is read
at weddings all time, if he had of been talking about that romantic love he
would have used the Greek word Eros which is translated “love”.
Instead the word that Paul
uses in the original language was the Greek word Agape which is translated “love”.  But you knew that.   
And that type of love isn’t
the type of love that you fall into it’s the type of love that you choose to
demonstrate and act on.  It is an act of
the mind as much as it’s an act of the heart. 
That’s the type of love that
for thousands of years was exhibited in arranged marriages, where people
decided that they would love each other.
It’s the love that you have
when you adopt a child.  That love will
not doubt become the love that you would have for your natural child, but you
begin by choosing to love the little stranger you have invited into your home.
It’s the love that you
demonstrate to your child when they rebel against you and reject your values. 
That also may have changed
from the love that your felt for your child when they weren’t in rebellion,
when you held them in your arms and your heart melted.  They were easy to love then, now you have to
make the decision to love them, it becomes a choice you have to make.
And that is the word that John
used in 1 John 4:8 when he tells us that “God is Love” and the word that Jesus
used when he told Nicodemus in John 3:16  “For God loved the
world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes
in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And the second thing we need
to understand is that Paul writes that “Love
never fails.”
  We may fail love but
love will never fail us. 
And so, for a little while
this morning I want to look at a story from the life of Jesus.
It is the night before Jesus would
be arrested, at the event that we now call “The Last Supper” and listen to how
the story begins:   John 13:1  Before
the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world
and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on
earth, and now he loved them to the very end.
Did you catch the last
line?  He had loved his disciples
during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.
  He
didn’t love them until the end of the evening, he loved them to the very end.
Before
the evening was over, Jesus would predict that Judas would betray him and that
Peter would deny that he ever knew him and that the other ten would scatter and
desert him.  But he loved them to the
very end.
The love
that they had had, the love that they had professed, the love that they had
demonstrated that love would fail Jesus. 
When
Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus to those who wanted to kill
him, Judas’ love had failed Jesus.
When Peter
denied knowing Jesus not once not twice but three times, at the time when Jesus
needed Peter’s friendship more than ever, Peter’s love had failed Jesus.
When the
other ten scattered and deserted him, their love had failed Jesus.  
I am sure
that at various points over the previous three years that all twelve of the
apostles  would have expressed their love for Christ either verbally or at least they had
the thought “Hey, I really love this guy.”
And yet. . . one betrays him
and one denies him and ten desert him. 
Love never fails?
So we need to realize that Our Love For God May Fail 
There may be times that you
will disappoint God, there may be times you will choose to disobey God, there
may be times that you choose to rebel against God. 
Jesus told the twelve in John
14:23
 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.” 
And if obedience is the litmus
test for our love for Christ then we have to acknowledge that there are times
that just like the twelve blew it that we will probably blow it.
But ultimately, the story
wasn’t over when the 12 each failed Jesus. 
We have to
believe that Jesus was thinking of Peter and Judas when he looked down from the
cross that he was nailed to and said, “Father forgive them.”  That he was saying Father forgive Peter
and Father forgive Judas and Father forgive James Father forgive
Andrew and Nathaniel and Thomas
And that goes back to the
words He had
loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the
very end.
Even
knowing that one would deny him and one would betray him and the rest would
desert him, Jesus loved them to the very end. 
And even
after
his prediction was fulfilled and even after Peter denied him
and even after Judas betrayed him and even after the rest deserted him, even
then he still loved them.
You cannot
stop the love of God
You can choose to ignore the love of God and you can choose to not
accept the love of God, or can choose to walk away from the love of God but
that doesn’t negate the love of God.
When it’s
raining, you can stay dry under an umbrella, you have rejected the rain.  But you haven’t stopped the rain.  It’s still raining. 
You can
reject the love of God. That’s what we call “free will”,  but you can’t stop the love of God.  And it is because of that Love that God won’t
force you to accept his love.
Maybe you have wondered the
same thing.  Maybe you’ve uttered those
words “If God really loved the world, if God really love my family, if God
really loved me. . . Then this wouldn’t be happening.”
And it’s all right to question
at times when life seems unfair.  And
even though we may feel unloved that doesn’t negate God’s love for us.  It was  C.S. Lewis who wrote “Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for
us does not.”   
And after Paul asks the
question about being separated from the love of Christ he goes on to answer that
very question in Romans 8:37  No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
You see, Jesus loves us to the
very end, not the very end of our lives but to the very end of time.
Which leads us to acknowledge
the promise that even though our love for God may fail,  God’s Love for Us Will Never Fail 
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  No-thing can separate us from the love of
God.   His love is with us from the
moment he breathed life into our being until we close the chapter on the story
of our life.
Kind of sounds like “Love
never fails.”
And we can choose to accept the love of God or we can choose to reject
the love of God, but understand it is our choice. 
God’s love was there from the very beginning when God created the first
man and the first woman.  And it was
because of that love that God’s heart was broken when they chose to rebel
against him.
I may feel bad when you’re dealing with your rebellious teen, but my
heart was broken when I was dealing with my rebellious teen. 
We see God’s love recorded throughout the Old Testament where the word of
God uses phrases like “God’s unfailing love” and “God’s lavish love”.  As a matter of fact over 200 times in the
bible God’s love is called “unfailing love.”
Kind of sounds like “Love
never fails.”
And that love isn’t dependent on who we are or how good we are or how
deserving or undeserving we are. 
That sounds like Grace, you know the unmerited love
of God.  And there is nothing we can do
to earn that Grace and in the same way there is nothing we can do to earn God’s
love.  Which is why Martin Luther warns
us  “The sin underneath all our sins is
to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of
Christ and must take matters into our own hands”
That was the lie that the Devil told Adam and Eve,
he told them “You can’t trust God’s love” and it’s the lie that the Devil told
Judas and Peter and the others and it’s the lie that he wants us to fall for as
well. 
But the reality is that we must trust in God’s love
and God’s grace, Paul
reminds us in Romans 5:8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die
for us while we were still sinners.  Even when we were the least deserving of his love, while we were
still sinners, God loved us enough to send his Son to die for us. 
Billy Graham once said “God proved His love
on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the
world, ‘I love you.’”
 Kind of sounds like “Love never fails.”
And Peter and Judas both proved that our love for God sometimes fails,
but God’s love for us will never fail. 
And at the end of the day we need to realize that if we are going to
trust in God’s grace, then we need to trust in God’s love for us and not our
love for God. 

And so I leave you with the words of Augustine who
wrote  “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
  And he will love you to the very end, and
that love will never fail.