I recently spoke at an event about how we can love God and one another at all times, even the hard times, if we love with God’s agape love. And that brought up the question: If love “always protects, always trusts, always, hopes, and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7), then how can we love like that and not end up a doormat? That is a great question! So, let’s take a look at how we love like God and why his kind of love never fails! (1 Corinthians 1:13:8)
By the Power of His Spirit
Apart from God we can do nothing. In our humanness, we will never be able to love like him. It is only when the Holy Spirit lives within us and we cooperate with him that we can love the way the apostle Paul describes godly love in 1 Corinthians 13. So, if you want to love more like God, lean into him, worship him, be aware of your need for his Spirit to empower you to love others as he loves.
In this post we will focus on the final two verses of that description. However, if you’d like to dig deeper into the other aspects, I’ve made you a Cheat Sheet that breaks down each element and prompts you with some questions to ask yourself when you are faced with loving difficult people or in challenging circumstances. Click the button below and I’ll email the Cheat Sheet to you instantly!
Keeping the context in mind, let’s look at that group of “always” characteristics of God’s love.
This phrase can be translated several different ways, each capturing a little of the original meaning. Listen to some various translations and see what I mean:
“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes” —The Amplified Bible
“Love bears all things.”—NRSV and ESV
The literal translation is “Love all things covers quietly ” (The Interlinear Bible).
Now at first glance that may sound like love covers up wrongdoing, but since Paul already clarified in the previous verse love “rejoices in the truth,” we know he isn’t saying love always covers up sin. Rather, love protects the dignity of the wrongdoer while addressing the wrongs they have committed.
I heard a pastor tell of how a four-year old in his congregation described how you know someone loves you. He said, “Your name is safe in their mouth.” When you speak of someone who has wronged, disappointed, or irritated you, is their name safe in your mouth? If so, you are exercising agape love. If you catch yourself gossiping or sniping about them, stop! Confess to God your actions and your struggle to love them and pray for them. Ask God to help you love them as he loves them.
You can, and should, speak the truth in love to someone who is engaging in behavior that is self-destructive or harms others. To stay quiet or cover-up wrongdoing makes you complicit in the sin. Just be sure you allow the Holy Spirit to direct your words and actions so there is an appropriate balance of grace and truth and your motivation is really love for the person.
Love always trusts, a word that can also be translated “has faith” or “believes.” So you will see this phrase translated variously as:
“Love believes all things”—NRSV
“believes all things [looking for the best in each one]”—The Amplified Bible
“never loses faith” —New Living Translation
Obviously Paul is not saying that agape believes anything or is gullible because we’ve already seen how important truth is in the exercise of agape.
I think it is more like, love believes that in God all things are possible. There is no situation or person beyond the ability of God to bring about change, healing and wholeness. We can trust in all situations that our sovereign God is able to accomplish His will and purposes.
When we’ve been harmed, God commands us to forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean we have to believe every promise made by an unreliable person. We, like God, can and should set appropriate limits as to what behavior we will accept and what we won’t. We need to have healthy boundaries that protect us from the choices and behavior of an unsafe person.
Forgiveness only requires our willingness to forgive the other person. Rebuilding trust in the relationship between us requires both parties to engage honestly and with love for each other. In other words, forgiveness takes one, restoration of a healthy relationship takes two!
When we speak of agape always trusting, we are saying we always trust in God’s ability to work in the situation and people involved.
In biblical language, hope is never about pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, it is a confident expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises and the truth of his Word.
So when we love like God loves, we live and relate with others expectantly. We anchor our hope, not in the circumstances, but in God’s ability to bring to pass that which is best for us and which accomplishes his purposes.
Are you noticing how interconnected these “always” characteristics are? Because love is anchored in who God is and a confidence in his Word, we are able to trust him to be at work in the people and circumstances that cause us such pain and frustration. We can keep on keeping on when human common sense tells us there is no point – just give up.
When our hope is in God’s ability, not human ability, we find strength and motivation to keep cooperating with him and letting his Holy Spirit direct us through the hard times.
Love Never Fails
So, beloved child of God, lean in to him and let him strengthen and equip you to persevere. Worship him, talk to him and listen when he speaks, study his Word, engage with other believers and let them encourage you and hold you accountable.
Loving as God loves is all about relationship, first and foremost with God, and from the overflow of that love we will be able to love others—even the most challenging and in the the most difficult circumstances.
Don’t forget your Cheat Sheet!
Learn more about this godly love. Grab the FREEBIE I made for you that covers all the characteristics of agape love discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Click that button below and let me know where you want me to email it to you. Then check your inbox for some tips and insights that will help you love the hard-to-love people and bear up under the challenging circumstances you face.
How about you? What do you find most challenging about loving like God loves? What helps you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.