With the rise of meme-empowered social media, we now have an onslaught of hundreds of memes crossing our paths on a weekly basis. They range from hilarious, vain, ratchet, dismal, informative, inspirational, and everything else in between. Amongst these various memes, we are bombarded with many that present hard-hitting biblical truths delivered in soft-shelled, misguided contexts. In other words, they’re gravely taken out of context, misused and over-shared by individuals who may or may not have picked up a Bible recently.
So why are they so popular? They are shared because of the meme creator’s uncanny ability to tap into a shared emotional experience based upon a general consensus of human nature in any given situation. For anyone who’s used social media for any length of time, we’ve all experienced it: you happen upon a meme that so perfectly captures the essence of your thoughts and experiences, it’s as if someone was reading your mind and you can’t help but to share it.
While there are many different memes that fit into this category, let’s take a moment and dissect a particular meme that landed on my timeline quite a few times the past two weeks. Insert the above meme. You may have also seen it floating around on your timeline. If you haven’t seen this one, you may have seen some similar in nature.
While one can easily say there is actually no falsity shared in the actual content of the meme (1 Corinthians 13:8 does indeed say “love never fails”), the surrounding context is where the problem lies.
Put frankly, this meme is a cop-out. People tend share things like this in an attempt to justify the termination of a failed relationship or marriage. They chalk it up as if to say, “Oh well, it just wasn’t meant to be…it wasn’t really love anyway, so of course it had to end. On to the next.” There may even be an urge to displace blame for the failed relationship/marriage on the other person, even if subconsciously. This is a form of what is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude/emotional change. In other words, rather than taking a hard look in the mirror, being aware of and admitting your own contributions to the failure, it’s easier to let the meme speak for you.
Yes, 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never fails,” but lets not disregard verses 4 through 7 in this context:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
So while it is true that love never fails, it’s also true that people fail at loving. At some point we all fall short of operating in love. Instead of saying “it wasn’t love,” it could very well be that we’re just not doing love the right way. This is especially true if you never seen an example of godly, healthy relationships growing up. We tend to resort to what we know when there is no intentional intervention. Love is messy and requires daily effort and intentional choice beyond fleeting emotions and feelings. It’s never as simple as saying “it was never meant to be” or “it was fake love.”
In light of 1 Corinthians 13:8, you must ask yourself, “Was I ever impatient or unkind? Were there times when I was envious, boastful, or prideful? Did I dishonor my mate with how I talked about him to others or by what I did while away from him? Was I ever selfish or easily angered? Did I ever bring up the past as a weapon? Did I always protect, trust, have hope, and persevere?” If we’re being honest with ourselves, we have failed at each of these questions at some point in our relationships. Since we can say that we haven’t always upheld the standard of love described in the above verses, it’s easy to see how we can disqualify ourselves from having that love that never fails as described in verse 8. But thank God for the gospel of grace!
You see, God already knew that we wouldn’t be able to love each other exactly to this standard. This is why the importance of having relationships centered on the wisdom, guidance, and direction of Holy Spirit and God’s word cannot be overstated enough. We will fail each other. We will hurt each other at times. But when our relationships are empowered by the Spirit of God, we will be driven by a compulsion to strive for that standard of perpetual forgiveness and reconciliation while relying on God’s grace, power, and strength working through us to cover where we fall short.
Life is all about God and relationships, and our ability to navigate in those relationships effectively and healthily. Because of the vast number of broken homes and families that have been riddled by breakups and divorce and toxic friendships, we owe it to ourselves and our future generations of children to not lean on our own understanding concerning this, but to learn how to really do relationships God’s way. We owe it to our seed to not only humbly look in the mirror, own our failures and resolve to forgive and reconcile our relationships, but to intentionally and rigorously teach them to do the same.
Just as we have to study for different types of licenses, from driving to being a doctor, we definitely need to study what it means to truly operate in love in the context of relationships and marriage. We ought to be constantly learning the intricacies of how to have difficult discussions, manage conflict resolution, love languages,
meeting others’ needs, expressing our needs, the power of vulnerability, the art of an apology, and constant forgiveness for the minor and major offenses. Our quality of life and the future generations coming after us will pay the unfortunate price of stress, pain, depression, anxiety, and/or addiction if we fail in the area of healthy relationships. So miss me with this misconstrued “meme theology” that is elemental and surface at best. Our families need something real, deep, and substantial enough to withstand the test of society’s assault on family structure over generations. Let’s end these generational cycles and build strong, healthy families in our communities.
I’ll leave you with Paul’s warning on this very issue:
“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human tradition and thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world (society), rather than from Christ.” Colossians 2:8