Never Failing

Reading: Matthew 18.21-25
The person who says, "If you do that, I won't love you any more," hasn't really grasped what love is all about. Their view of love is essentially selfish.

Paul wrote, "Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13.8).

Peter came to Jesus one day with a question, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" (Mt. 18.21) Peter evidently thought his offer was generous!

No, Jesus said, not seven, but seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven)". He went on to tell a story about a servant who was forgiven a debt equivalent to millions of dollars. But he was then unwilling to forgive a fellow-servant who owed him only a few dollars!

Jesus deliberately makes the first debt a staggering one, because he is stressing the greatness of God's love and patience and forgiveness towards us. To refuse to love others is to reject his love, too. The quality of true love keeps on loving.

A Christian couple were engaged to be married. When World War II came, the young man enlisted. Letters telling of their ardent love were written daily. Then weeks passed without the young woman hearing from her fiance. In distress, she wrote to the War Department in Washington. While waiting for a reply, she received a letter which said, "There has been another terrible battle, and I have lost both of my arms. My chaplain is writing this letter for me. Because of what has happened to me, I tearfully release you from our engagement."

The noble girl didn't write an answer. She immediately flew to the distant hospital to see her fiance. There was a touching scene at his bedside when she said, "I love you devotedly. I will never give you up. We will face life together and live for God and for each other."

In the Song of Solomon it is written, "Love is strong as death… Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away" (8.6,7).

As Paul put it, "Love never fails."

At the beginning of his hymn of love, Paul spoke of the utter futility of eloquent or ecstatic speech, of prophecy, of knowledge, of faith, of sacrificial works - without love.

Now he emphasises that it is love that outlasts prophecy, tongues and knowledge.

Prophecy is imperfect, incomplete. It looks forward to a fulfilment. When the promised event has happened, the prophetic work is complete. It only stands on as a continuing witness to the faithfulness and love of God.

This is how we view the prophecies that looked forward to Christ - our focus now is not on them but on him. And when all of God's purposes for this world are finally complete and God sums up all things in his Son, there will be no further use for prophecy.

Tongues will be stilled. The Corinthians thought themselves to be especially spiritually gifted - they saw the gift of tongues as proof of this. But human rhetoric and spiritual eloquence alike will be silenced in the direct presence of God.

Confronted with Reality, face-to-face with God himself, our human claims to knowledge will pass away.

The school boy of ten thought his father was very ignorant. But when he was twenty, it seemed to him that his father must have learnt a lot in the past ten years!

Yet as a race, we have become intellectually arrogant - we think we know it all. But what we know is but as a poor mirror reflection compared with the full realisation of the Truth in God's presence.

"Love never fails." It is the character of God himself. We see it in all his dealings with us. May he help us to begin to have that depth of love, too.

PRAYER: Father, your love never fails; my love is weak and small. I need your kind of love in all my relationships. I need you, Father, to live and love within me and through me. Be with me, I pray, in Jesus' name, Amen.

The Way

To become
and to be
inside me,
I ought to be
and was always
meant to be.
To achieve
and to know
and peace.
To find
and to be found
by my Creator
and to know his plan,
and, knowing it,
know life
and joy.
To live,
to love,
to give,
to serve
the one
who gave his all
that I might live
and be
what I was always
meant to be.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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