I’ve seen this meme make its rounds on social media, touting the following:
The Bible says “‘Love never fails.’ So if it fails, it wasn’t love.”
(Queue sad teary emoji face)
Here, context is key, right? So what does this scripture passage actually refer to? This comes from the famous chapter from Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, home to every wedding and vow renewal since the dawn of time:
“Love is patient, love is kind... Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
And the famous three words “Love never fails…”
But WHY does love never fail? Before we ask that, we need to ask ourselves, “What is love?”
“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
Now, let’s look at the notion of “never failing,” which we can interpret as synonymous with “perfection.” God’s perfection is scattered throughout scripture. In Matthew 5:48, Christ calls us to perfection, as He tells us how “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This sentiment is also scattered throughout the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 18:30, “This God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” And in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
So, by the transitive property (and if we learned anything from basic geometry in high school), if God is perfect, and God is love, then love never fails.
Lastly, on a side note, this aforementioned mantra can be a slippery slope. Any time scripture is taken out of context, we need to be mindful first and foremost. This may tend to toe the line of our non-committal millennial culture. Yes, “Thy will be done.” There’s much promise in surrendering and entrusting to God. But relationships of all shapes and sizes require action, effort, and response. There are responsibilities that come with that. There are obligations and expectations that need to be communicated and agreed upon. And most importantly, there are boundaries that need to be set.
So what do you think? Where do you struggle most when it comes to failure? When have you noticed scripture taken out of context? And how has God redefined love through the people in your life?