Summary: Love nevers fails but are there limits to what love will do?
Two weeks ago we established the principle that love is not a feeling, but rather an action. Last week, we attempted to apply that principle to the problem of dealing with enemies. This morning, we wrap up our look at love with what I think is a very crucial question; does love ever set limits?
Does it ever say, "Enough is enough." That seems like an easy enough question, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 8, "Love never fails." One verse earlier he said, "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." When you consider that Paul uses the words "never" and "always," it would seem pretty safe to say that love knows no limits.
Well, let’s test that conclusion in the crucible of real world experience. A woman at your office shows up for work wearing a pair of sunglasses. But it’s a cloudy day. And besides, the florescent lights in the office aren’t that bright. Yet throughout the morning, she hides behind those Foster Grants. You don’t even bother to ask why. You know why. You’ve seen her do it a dozen times in the last year and a half. Her husband has blacked her eye again.
You asked her, once, why she put up with it. "He really loves me," she answered. "And I love him. And I know that the Bible says that love always hopes, always perseveres and never fails." You reminded her that the same Bible also says, "Love protects," but she didn’t have ears to hear.
Does God expect that woman to keep on showing up for work trying to hide a bruised face with thick make-up and dark sun glasses? Does love ever say enough is enough?
Or consider a man in his mid-fifties who is responsible for caring for his aging mother. He’s taken her into his home, manages her finances with utmost integrity, schedules her doctor appointments and provides transportation to them. He takes her to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night. To everyone who knows her, she is a sweet, faithful saint, living out her final years with grace and dignity.
But when he and his wife are alone with her, she is verbally abusive, impossible to please and mean-spirited. She uses her vast knowledge of the Bible as a weapon to carve up her caretakers for all their faults, failures and shortcomings. She constantly criticizes, demeans and dismisses everything they do. And she is a master at manipulation by guilt. This isn’t a new thing brought on by old age. He knows she’s always been this way.
Does love require him to take her verbal stabs regardless of how much emotional blood she draws? Or does it permit him to confront her and demand that she stop quoting the Bible so much and start living by it. In other words, does love ever say, "Enough is enough?" Does love ever set
Look again in 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 8.
I love it when something new leaps out of an old text for me. You may have seen this years ago, but I got the pleasure of experiencing it for the first time this week. Listen to Paul’s familiar words again -- this time with the question of love’s limits in the front of your brain.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
Eight times Paul uses the word "not." Paul spends fifty percent of his time and ink telling us what love does not do. In other words, Paul spends as much time telling us about the limits of love as he does telling us how far it is willing to go. Every time he uses the words "not," or "no," he’s showing us one of love’s boundary lines.
Let me explain why I think this is such an important question. The choice to love someone is a risky choice. It makes us vulnerable. We open our hearts and souls up to the people we love. If they respond to us in Godly love, it’s a blessing. But if they choose, they can take advantage of us. They can abuse us verbally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. They can seize the opportunity afforded them by our love to manipulate, dominate and control us. And they often do all of that in the name of God.