“Love Never Fails”
“Love never fails.”—1 Cor. 13:8.
1. To what may love be compared? What must be done to increase its beauty?
LOVE is like a priceless gem, a diamond with many facets. It is beautiful any way you look at it. In fact, it has been said in verse: “Youth’s for an hour, Beauty’s a flower, But love is the jewel that wins the world.” Like a diamond with numerous reflecting surfaces, love has ever so many aspects, all good, all desirable, all touching and heartwarming. But, at first, love may be compared to an unpolished though precious stone. The latent ability to draw others, to bless them, to warm them, is there, in an unpolished state. How may we polish it to increase its luster? As Christians, how may we take this diamond in the rough, as it were, and make it glisten with resplendent beauty? Well, first we must shine the light of God’s Word upon the gem of love.
2. (a) Despite what has Jehovah shown love? (b) How have God and Christ displayed love in connection with the ransom?
2 Jehovah excels in showing love. For thousands of years and despite the waywardness of mankind, faithfully, unfailingly, the Creator has demonstrated this superlative attribute—all this, though it has been undeserved. Jehovah “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” The Most High has been “kind toward the unthankful and wicked.” To all this Jesus Christ could attest in his sermon on the mount. (Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:35) Actually, both Jehovah and Christ have displayed great love in connection with the ransom. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) And Jesus told his followers: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus Christ did just that for sheeplike ones, in keeping with his own words: “I am the fine shepherd . . . I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15) What marvelous examples of love we have in Jehovah and His Son!
3. To have Jehovah’s favor, what quality must we display and toward whom?
3 To have Jehovah’s favor, we must, like God and His Son, show love. (1 John 3:21-23) True Christians, therefore, abide by the two great commandments enunciated by Christ: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37-39) To show such love is possible for Christians, for they have God’s spirit and produce its fruits, one of which is love.—Gal. 5:22.
4. What is love according to Paul?
4 Love is a quality that beggars description. It defies thorough definition. Yet, under inspiration, Paul wrote of it: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) It is easily seen that love could not repel, but must attract. It would naturally attract, drawing persons together. This it has surely done in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, unified as it is worldwide. But let us now carefully examine the various aspects, the several facets, of this gem, love.
“LOVE IS LONG-SUFFERING AND KIND”
5. (a) Jehovah’s long-suffering has meant what for many? Does He endlessly tolerate wrongdoing? (b) In what ways can we be long-suffering?
5 Paul said, “Love is long-suffering and kind.” To be long-suffering means that we will put up with the weaknesses and imperfections of others. Jehovah has done so, and for many it has meant salvation. (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15) Naturally, he does not endlessly tolerate wrongdoing. Paul told the idolatrous Athenians: “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:29-31) Following the divine example, we should be patient with others who may be slower physically or mentally, perhaps because of advanced age. Love looks for ways of showing sympathetic consideration. That does not mean that we must continuously put up with wrongdoing or that we ourselves will violate Scriptural principles. However, some things may be done one way or another. No Biblical principle is involved. Why insist that ours is the only way in such cases? That might only lead to unloving acts, disputes and loss of happiness. (1 Cor. 9:22) That we should be patient and forgiving was emphasized by Jesus, who told Peter to forgive “not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” (Matt. 18:21, 22) So, we may well ask ourselves: “Do I really exercise patience? Am I sympathetic? Do I put myself in the place of another? Do I forgive?” If you are long-suffering and can answer Yes, this facet of your love must shine brightly!
6. (a) Give examples of “human kindness.” (b) Why can it be said that the Christian’s life is one of kindness?
6 But what of kindness? Love is kind. There are works of human kindness and in times of disaster persons will often respond in humanitarian ways. The inhabitants of Malta showed shipwrecked Paul and others “extraordinary human kindness.” (Acts 28:2) However, they did not do so because Paul was a minister of Jehovah God. They simply showed beneficence, though abundantly so. Today when calamity strikes, many respond with “human kindness.” They help their suffering fellowman. For example, in February, 1953, disaster struck the Netherlands when dikes broke and the land was inundated. One writer said, reviewing this and similar occurrences: “Sometimes it can happen that the public is too generous. Sufficient blankets were donated to the victims of the Netherlands floods to cover the entire Dutch nation for a year.” When hardship besets their spiritual brothers and sisters somewhere in the world, kindness and love move true Christians to action. Material things, clothing and needed items are donated by fellow believers in lands not affected. But Christians make it their life’s work to show kindness, not only in material but especially in spiritual ways. They use their time and resources, they expend their energies, in acts of kindness and love, aiding persons in a spiritual manner through their ministry. So the dedicated Christian does not limit himself to occasional philanthropy or temporary humanitarianism, passing “human kindness.” His is a life of kindness.—1 Tim. 4:16.
7. Give an illustration showing the need for kindness.
7 Now, suppose you are at the congregation meeting place, the Kingdom Hall. As you look about, what do you see? Greeting you are smiling faces. Only occasionally may you detect another slight sentiment. Courageously, your Christian sister who lives in a divided household hides the pain she has experienced. When she returns home unpleasantness may confront her. Perhaps her attendance at this peaceful, spiritually upbuilding meeting has come about at the expense of no little unhappiness. She shed tears before leaving home because of an opposing mate, though you may never know it. What love and concern you would express toward this one of God’s “sheep” if you but knew her circumstances! How your heart would go out to her! Surely you would not ignore her or say some unkind word to her in a rash moment. Oh, this sister may even find it necessary to curtail meeting attendance somewhat because of her husband’s demands, though she does not forsake gathering with fellow Christians altogether. Do we begin to look down upon her? We should not, for, if she is doing her best, Jehovah knows this and is not displeased. Remember, God “sees what the heart is.” (1 Sam. 16:7) It would be unkind indeed to find fault. She needs aid, not discouragement; kindness, not criticism. When we speak encouragingly to her, we warm her heart, we make her truly happy that she is a part of such a wonderful, loving organization. And in showing kindness we are polishing another surface of the gem of love.
8. How is kindness shown in our ministry?
8 Kindness is also expressed when we patiently explain truths to persons in our ministry—this, though they may at first have difficulty in comprehending some things or in applying Scriptural principles to their lives and thinking. But, whether at home, in the ministry, or at congregation meetings, expressing kindness is essential. It is an important aspect of our love. So, we are admonished: “But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Eph. 4:32.
LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS OR BOASTFUL
9. (a) How should we react when someone is entrusted with a position of responsibility in the congregation? (b) Since “love is not jealous,” how should we view envy?
9 “Love is not jealous.” Hence, envy will not engulf us if we have love. We will not permit our love to be stifled should another be entrusted with a position of responsibility in the Christian congregation. We will not deny him our active support because of jealousy. Instead, we will thank Jehovah that our spiritual brother can use his good qualities and abilities to the advancement of God’s earthly organization. We will rejoice in his success. Envy will be recognized for what it is—a sin. The counsel of Galatians 5:26 will find a place in our hearts: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”
10. Why boast in Jehovah and not in ourselves?
10 But suppose we are in a position of responsibility. Have we reason to boast in our attainments? Love “does not brag.” We have nothing that we did not receive. (1 Cor. 13:4; 4:7) We may be shepherds, having oversight, but remember, we never lose the position of sheep by reason of such an appointment. As sheep, all should boast, not in self, but in whom? First Corinthians 1:31 answers: “He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.” How fitting it is for all sheep to boast in the Great Shepherd of all the sheep! And why not boast in Jehovah? We may plant and water, as did Paul and Apollos, “but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6-9) Then again, what of tomorrow? If we boast today and rely on ourselves alone, this may be fatal. Note the apostle’s warning: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Do not forget that, “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind.” (Gal. 6:3; Rom. 11:18) So then, if we boast in Jehovah, not in ourselves, we will act lovingly, not proudly. We will thus be polishing and brightening still another facet of love. How so?
11. (a) How might a person display a “fleshly frame of mind”? (b) What attitude should we have toward others?
11 The apostle further pointed out that love “does not get puffed up.” We cannot ignore this, one of the many aspects of love. A person may be ambitious or may take himself too seriously. He may believe that he should set matters straight in the lives of others. Frankly, he may think himself to be superior to his neighbor. But in this would not his love be wanting? Yes, for his is a “fleshly frame of mind.” (Col. 2:18) Of course, this does not mean that an overseer should forego opportunities to aid persons spiritually or that others also should so fail. But some things are personal and should be left that way. (Gal. 6:5) Here the counsel of Colossians 3:12 is very apropos: “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” Check your spiritual clothing. Act lovingly, “with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”—Phil. 2:3.
LOVE IS NOT INDECENT OR SELFISH
12. Since love “does not behave indecently,” how should we conduct ourselves?
12 While we are polishing this facet of the gem of love we will do well to remember that love “does not behave indecently.” This means that we will be mannerly in the home, in the congregation and in the ministry. We will not be rude and unchristian. Neither will we act immorally, seeking selfishly to corrupt another. (1 Cor. 10:8; 2 Pet. 2:9, 10) But we must think properly so as to act properly. We must shun obscenity. The Ephesians were told: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every kind or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:3, 4; Col. 3:5-8) Christians are on stage. We are a theatrical spectacle before men and angels. (1 Cor. 4:9) What kind of characters will we be in the present drama if we forget to do the loving thing, if in our thoughtlessness we bring reproach upon Jehovah, whom we should love first and foremost? Never may that happen!
13, 14. (a) Inasmuch as love does not selfishly “look for its own interests,” what does this mean for an overseer? (b) What example should overseers not forget? (c) In love, how may Christians look well to the interests of others?
13 Love does not selfishly “look for its own interests.” In the case of an overseer, for example, this means expending himself. It requires that he be approachable at all times. Never should he be too busy to aid others. If persons in the congregation have problems they cannot resolve and they are in need of assistance, should they not feel free to seek the aid of the mature overseer? And should he not be loving and considerate? Why, think of Jesus. How busy he was! Yet, persons were able to approach him. He preached to them. He taught them. He cured them. He showed pity for them. He had love for them! He set the perfect example, one that mature and loving overseers will not forget.—Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:21, 22; 2:13; Luke 7:13; John 13:34; 15:9, 12.
14 Love will cause us to sacrifice our own rights at times and to be tolerant toward customs which, in themselves, are not unscriptural. Corinthian Christians wondered whether to eat meat purchased in the meat market but which had come from animals offered to idols. There was no direct objection to partaking of it, as long as one was not eating a sacrificial meal in the worship of demon gods represented by the idols. Yet, if eating such meat would stumble another, Paul advised refraining. He said: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. . . . Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Cor. 10:23-33) Similarly today, the thoughtful Christian will, for example, refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages in a community where doing so is frowned upon. He has a Scriptural right to partake in moderation, but he abstains because he does not want to stumble someone. Be concerned, then, with the welfare and edification of others. Polish this facet of the gem of love. Look not for your own interests selfishly but for the interests and well-being of others. Love will make you do all this because love never fails.—Phil. 2:4.
OTHER FACETS OF LOVE
15. The mature Christian will adopt what view of anger and of holding a grudge? Why?
15 Love “does not become provoked” or “keep account of the injury.” Not only does anger damage relationships, but it is also injurious to health, placing a strain on the heart. Solomon said: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Prov. 14:30) So heed the counsel: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.” (Ps. 37:8) Anger is a work of the fallen flesh. (Gal. 5:19, 20) And keeping a grudge hurts you. It is unchristian. (Matt. 5:22; Lev. 19:17, 18) Once, Paul and Barnabas had a difference. But the breach was healed and they bore no grudges. (Acts 15:36-41) Harbor no animosity, then, nor immaturely look for a way and time to repay some offender. Do not become provoked or keep account of injury. Remember, these facets of the gem of love must be polished, too.—Rom. 12:17.
16. Over what does love not rejoice? With what does it rejoice? Compare Christians and those of evil bent in this respect.
16 The apostle further said that love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor. 13:6) The Christian finds no pleasure in injustice, even if opposers experience it. (Prov. 29:27) However, those of evil bent, Satan, the demons and wicked men, rejoice over unrighteousness, taking the view that “the end must justify the means.” This was one factor that brought upon earth and its inhabitants the dreadful ravages of world war in this generation. Cities were turned to rubble, homes to dust, a measure of happiness to sorrow and pain—and for millions there came death. These and other causes of suffering have been brought about by those rejoicing over unrighteousness, haters of what is right. Christians, though, rejoice in Jehovah, in the triumph of truth, not in unrighteousness of any kind. Thus, for them the future holds real grandeur. They are sowing love, not hate, and they will continue to reap God’s love in return, with happiness now and in the new order of his promise.—2 Pet. 3:11-13; Gal. 6:7-10.
17. Give one way in which love “bears all things.”
17 True love “bears all things.” Hence, should difficulties arise, Christians will be forgiving. They keep in mind Christ’s words: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matt. 18:15-17) This first step in settling differences is an act of love, for gossip does not fill the air, but the offender himself is privately approached. Additional steps may be taken if necessary, but how many problems are quite easily resolved in this way, by love! They are seen for what they are minor personal offenses that can quickly be forgiven and forgotten. True Christians do not let their love fail. They choose “to live peaceably,” to work out their problems amicably.—2 Cor. 13:11.
18. (a) With love, how will we view truth? (b) What attitude should Christians take toward spiritual food provided through the “faithful and discreet slave”?
18 Love will not permit us to reject truth. “Truth is . . . stranger than fiction,” it has been said. Yet, if it is truth, love will accept it. Why? Because love “believes all things.” Still, love is not gullible, or credulous. If something is improper or untrue, love will not permit us to accept it. Love will, however, cause us to receive with appreciation the truths recorded in God’s Word. It will move us to accept spiritual food provided through the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) We will not be skeptical of it. Why, if we were doubtful in this regard, we would be like the restless, turbulent waves of the sea. Have you observed roaring waves, perhaps driven by changing winds? Their motions are erratic. Well, if we are skeptical, we will be like the waves. Thus, for our benefit James wrote: “So, if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, . . . and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah.”—Jas. 1:5-8.
19. Love “hopes all things.” What things?
19 A Christian must also hope in all things in God’s Word. The Thessalonians were admonished: “But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and have on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thess. 5:8) A soldier who enters battle without proper equipment or protective covering can hardly hope to survive. If our love fails, what kind of spiritual soldiers will we be? We will not have the “breastplate of faith and love” or the vitally necessary helmet, “the hope of salvation.” Fittingly, then, love “hopes all things,” all things in and truly founded upon the Word of God, the Holy Bible.—John 17:17.
20. What will love enable us to endure?
20 Another facet of the gem of love is that it “endures all things.” Love for God makes possible the endurance of persecution. Even after the apostles were flogged and dishonored in behalf of Christ’s name, “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42) Suffering due to persecution can be endured with the strength God gives. (Phil. 4:13) But what if we receive rebuke from God through his Word or organization? Then remember this wise counsel: “The discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject; and do not abhor his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” (Prov. 3:11, 12) Let not your love fail. Accept correction. Never permit it to drive you away from God’s organization, or to kill your love of it or of Jehovah.—Ps. 141:5.
21. (a) To show love, upon what must Christians depend? (b) Why cherish love?
21 Admittedly, it is not always easy to exercise love. Therefore, you must work at it and must depend upon Jehovah’s spirit. If you do, it will be possible for you to show love, for it is a fruit of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Be determined to display love that attracts. And bear this in mind: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Prov. 17:17) In summing up his inspired appraisal of love Paul said: “Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) Love is that grand quality that permeates the Christian congregation. Love will survive Armageddon, as will true Christians who demonstrate it. (Rev. 16:14, 16) So keep a tight grip on the gem of love. Do not lose it. Let no one rob you of it. Cherish it! It will ever prove to be a blessing to you, to your Christian brothers and to all with whom you have dealings. Show it now and forever. Remember—”Love never fails”!—1 Cor. 13:8.