This week’s Lectionary readings include St. Paul’s famous chapter on love. It’s probably one of the best passages ever written by anybody anywhere. But what amazes me about it is remembering who wrote it. Because, if you had first read everything else Paul ever wrote, you’d never have predicted that he would write this.
Paul was known for his scrappy disposition. He didn’t get along with any of the other Apostles, especially not Peter. He liked to lecture. And yet here he is, interrupting himself in the middle of an exceedingly contentious letter, to say something that invites all of us to let ourselves be interrupted—by the sheer wonder that such a thing as love can be real.
From that white-hot expansion of energy billions of years ago, who could have predicted that anything like love would emerge anywhere in the universe? And yet if love didn’t have the power to remake us and our relationships, if it couldn’t renew trust and patience when promises seem to fail us, none of us would have any friends or relationships left.
We think of love as a feeling, but it’s more than that. Feelings fail. “Love never fails.” Love is a power that we surely do feel, but it doesn’t depend on our flickering moods. For as Paul knew, “love” is just one of our tamer words for God.
There’s a power at work in and around us that won’t leave us to our own devices. It interrupts us when we feel like arguing, just as it interrupted Paul when he felt like arguing. It makes us aware of the things that matter more than winning, more than proving ourselves right. It points a way forward even when we can’t see how to take the next step.
Feelings fail; arguments fail; plans fail; love never fails. We tried killing it once, but it came back. Paul himself tried to kill it, and then he wound up preaching it—well, at least sometimes. You can’t get rid of love, not even when you think it’s gone. It comes back on its own power, in its own time, when you let yourself wait for it.
Love never fails.