A Love that Endures

Studies in First Corinthians

by Bob Burridge ©2018
Lesson 38: 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (ESV)

A Love that Endures

One thing that seems very constant in life is that things usually aren’t constant. Things change.
When we’re young and old things are cleared away to make way for the new, we see it as progress. The young might not have had any particular attachment to the old buildings, so getting them out of the way seems like a good thing. But when that new thing we saw them build gets old or out of date, (which means the formerly “young” are getting old too I suppose) they’re kind of sad to see it go to make way for still another generation’s idea of progress.

When push-button phones replaced the dial ones, kids were glad to push instead of dial, but some of the older folks might have missed that old rotary clicking to call a friend. There used to be rotary dials on most TV’s or radios too. I suppose the youngest might hear the old common phrase, “Don’t touch that dial!” and think it means keep your hands off the soap.

It must have been quite an adjustment for Edison’s generation to toss out those old wax cylinders to make way for the modern invention of vinyl records. Then the 78’s were replaced by 45’s and 33⅓’s, then came HiFi and Stereo, Then those things all went off to the thrift stores — replaced by reel-to-reel tapes. Next came the brief revolution of the 8-track cartridges. After that came compact cassettes. Now all those have become hard to move items on the shelves at 2nd hand stores. They were replaced by CD’s, then by mp3s — which have no real physical shape anyway — they just exist in memory chips or stored in memory on computers, and cell phones.

Most things we know in this life don’t last for long and in the larger scope of things neither do we. Pinellas County Florida where I’ve lived since I was a teen has grown from small settlements and groves to a super suburb of a million people. Even engineers have a hard time keeping up with the latest technologies. Our American Culture hasn’t only changed, it’s expanded exponentially. We have many dozens of cultures and sub-cultures to choose from in our communities.

And of course people change and so do their relationships. That’s nothing new. People have always hurt the ones who rely on them the most. There’s that old song, “You Always Hurt the One You Love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all” (by the Mills Brothers). Broken hearts and broken friendships are as old as life since Eden.

This is why the gospel message is so revolutionary. The God who made all things never changes and his ways never change.
James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Psalm 102:25-27 compares God with the earth and universe he made. “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.”

Even cosmic things go through changes, but the Creator is as he always has been, and always will be.

The love God puts in the hearts of his children has a steadfast character too:

1 Corinthians 13:7-8a
7. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8. Love never ends. …

This God-implanted love is able to bear all things.
“Stegae” (στέγη) is an ancient Greek word for the roof of a house or building. The word “bears” (στέγει) translates a verb made from that noun. It literally means to cover or roof-over something.

It came to have a figurative meaning too because of how a roof protects the house and those in it. A good roof holds up against rain, and keeps out the heat of the sun and cold winter winds. It keeps out unwanted things like insects, hungry animals, and falling leaves.

The basic idea in 1 Corinthians 13:7 is that this true kind of love bears up under the weight of the things we need to be sheltered from. The NIV translates it as, love … “always protects”

This right kind of love bears up under the challenges that come along.
– It doesn’t cave in to pressures to do something wrong, or to be unfaithful to friends.
– It doesn’t resort to complaining or whining when things don’t go its way.
– It holds up against moral storms and rough circumstances the way we hope the roof of our house holds up against the elements.

Under the shelter of this kind of love there’s a refuge. There we find a place where people respect one another and are learning to be kind. It’s a place where we don’t let the memory of one another’s past faults intrude. It bears up through temptations and trying times.

Next Paul tells us that this kind of love believes all things.
It doesn’t mean that love is gullible or believes contradictory or untrue things. Believing one thing always involves not believing some other thing. We call that the law of non-contradiction. A thing can’t be one way, and at the same time not be that way.

Love is concerned for the truth. If it has evidence that something is true, it doesn’t set it aside to accept the foolish ideas others promote.

When God tells us things in his word, our love for God means we trust him. We believe fully all he says in the Bible, and we accept it as truth. It becomes our standard and the principles that guide how we believe everything else.

This respect for truth means that when love hears things that seem to contradict what it believes is true, it makes a good effort to check the facts. If it doesn’t measure up, love believes what God has said over what other say.

Love also believes with good faith what others tell him, but with caution if it seems questionable. Love doesn’t assume somebody is lying, or has deceitful motives without evidence. Love gives people the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t presume people are being misleading.

It’s also careful not to accept things as true simply because others say so. It doesn’t listen to rumors or gossip that casts doubt on a person’s character.

God’s word gives us laws of evidence. If it hears bad things about a person, love goes to the accused to hear both sides of the story. It presumes innocence rather than guilt.

Then Paul says that this love hopes all things.
Love doesn’t despair. It keeps up a positive outlook through whatever comes along.

The word “hope” is always used for our confidence that positive things will happen. But it’s a proper kind of optimism. It’s not based on a blind wish for good things, or on ignoring unpleasant possibilities. It’s based on an unwavering trust in an all sovereign and all powerful God. It believes and lives by the promise summarized in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This hope trusts in this promise even if we can’t understand how it all works together for good. It sees God’s promises as more reliable than outward appearances and circumstances.

Hope is an attribute of love because in it’s devotion to God combined with a deep care for others it expects to see God’s glory advanced and his people to find true peace and happiness.

Since God can’t fail in his decreed plans, our hope can’t fail either.

Next Paul tells us that love endures all things.
The original Greek word here literally means that love “remains under” (“hupomeno” ὑπομένω). It reliably holds us up like a dependable bridge, or an infallible support system.

Since this love is implanted into our souls when we come to Christ it’s an attribute that stays with us regardless of what challenges come along. It perseveres because God himself is at work in his children to stir love and all its characteristics in them.

Even persecutions don’t discourage or turn back the one who truly loves God and others. It won’t let discomforts make him betray his Lord, or become a poor example to his children, friends, and family. The one who learns to love learns to press on toward what God says is right and good.

Finally, verse 8 begins with the words, Love never ends.
Many translate it as, “love never fails”. (῾Η ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει.) The original Greek word translated as “ends” or “fails” is “Piptei” (πίπτει ). It means “to fall down”, that is, love holds up – it doesn’t come crashing down to an end.

This summarizes all the characteristics we’ve studied, and introduces what follows.

It means that love survives through all things. It provides a shelter and refuge for those who love and for those around them. It helps a person believe what ever is true because it generates a confidence in God’s word, and a love for him who is supreme. At the same time it refuses to assume evil in people’s motives unless it’s proven to be there. Love for God produces hope because it expects that all God promises will come to pass just as he said it would. And it holds up through whatever circumstances come along.

If we fail to love this way, as God says we should, it’s not because of any defect in the love God put in our hearts. It’s because of our own defective loving. In this life it’s not perfect in anybody.

Even when individuals fail to love, if they’re born of God that ability to love endures in them. It can’t be eradicated, even when for a time it’s ignored or pushed aside. There are ways God provides that will stir up that love and make it grow.

Where love is really missing — it was never there. Those not born spiritually by God’s work of grace can only simulate love. They create a counterfeit that seems like love outwardly but doesn’t come from the same inner root.

The lost might show what seems like care for others, but it doesn’t come from an awareness of their human worth as creatures of God. It doesn’t come from a sincere love for God and his ways. Maybe it comes from a need for someone to care for him in return, or for the need to replace what’s missing in his fallen heart.

But this kind of love doesn’t endure. It falls down because it’s artificial. People fall in love and fall out of it with time.
It doesn’t provide a sound shelter when things go wrong. It doesn’t have a confident hope in good to come, only a wish that it might be so. There’s no trust in a Sovereign and Loving God who will always do all his holy will.

But even in the believer love can be underdeveloped. There has to be a regular effort to develop these 16 characteristics of true love. Colossians 3:12-14 tells us that these things should be actively put on as we would put on our clothes: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

This love needs to be prayerfully nourished by our sincerely asking God to make it grow in us.

It needs to be encouraged in us by the company of other believers united in a church as God himself organized the Christian community to function.

When human feelings come and go, what they call love often fades, it’s replaced with boredom. But this real thing — enduring love — never abandons us, and never becomes outdated or obsolete. It’s always the clothing that’s in style and it’s always the way for us to deal with God and the world around us. In fact in the hardest of times, this love becomes most visible in God’s children. That’s because it’s not a feeling to make us feel good, it’s a true concern that comes from Christ. The world around us changes as technology progresses, but real love needs nothing improving around it.

It’s a good exercise to regularly read over these characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Then look back over your day to see how you’re doing. Spend time in prayer over each of these characteristics of love, and make the next day one where you live more the way God created you to love.

(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

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