If you have attended a Christian wedding, chances are that you have heard 1 Corinthians 13 read as part of the ceremony.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (vv. 4-7, ESV)
What a beautiful description of love! But have you ever noticed that this definition is written from an eternal perspective? “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (v. 12)
Today I want to highlight some things that eternity can teach us about the nature of true love. By God’s grace and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can apply this type of eternal love to any relationship, but today I want to particularly focus on our friendships.
1. Eternity teaches us that love doesn’t quit before the job is done.
This will sound harsh, but I think many Christians quit on their friends. We promise to persevere through difficulty, but when we face discouraging and hurtful moments, we tell ourselves that the relationship is over or was never what we thought it was in the first place, and we are on our way out.
You cannot read the Bible’s origin-to-destiny story of redemption and not be deeply impressed with God’s patience and perseverance. God never gives up. He will not quit until everything that has been broken is restored.
2. Eternity teaches us that love is willing to suffer
Be honest: you are tempted to quit on your friends because you don’t like to suffer. Now don’t misunderstand me. Being willing to suffer doesn’t mean that you should permit an abusive person to continue to abuse you or a selfish person to continue to make unreasonable demands.
True love “suffers” in that I confront you honestly about the places where you have wronged me, but I do so in a spirit of patience and grace. It means that even though I know you need to change, I do not withhold my love.
Remember that God paved the pathway to eternity by willingly sacrificing his only Son. If God had been unwilling to suffer, there would have been no hope for us in this life, let alone the one to come! Ten million years into eternity, we will still be praising God for his willingness to suffer for our eternal good.
3. Eternity teaches us that true love always forgives.
Forgiveness is one of the principal character qualities of true love. Real love doesn’t love only in those times when the other party is deserving. Real love continues to love when they have no desire or ability to reciprocate. A “you earn it, and you’ll get it” economy of love will kill any friendship.
There would be no bright hope of eternity if God was not willing to forgive again and again and again.
Could it be that you are sabotaging your relationships with friends and don’t even know it? Could it be that what your social life needs is a new and healthy dose of eternity?
Seek the help of your heavenly Father. He loves you, suffered for you, has forgiven you, and will not quit on you until you are like him and with him forever.
Paul David Tripp
1. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Which aspect of this definition of love do you struggle with the most in your friendships?
2. Is there a friend that you are on the verge of quitting on? Why are you ready to give up? Have you considered this relationship in light of eternity?
3. Have you suffered through a friendship recently? How has that suffering produced sanctifying growth?
4. Are you operating by a “you earn it, and you’ll get it” economy with any of your friends? Are they with you? How is this damaging?
5. How can you incarnate the love of Christ to a friend who does not yet know the Lord? Be specific and practical.