True love never fails. That means loving someone over the long haul, day after day, whether we see results or not, out of love for God and not for what we can get out of it. So often we determine to love somebody, but what we are really seeking is for them to respond to our love in ways that will make life sweeter for us. We are kind to someone who is often irritable, for example, because we hope that our kindness will bring kindness in return.
Of course, love has as its aim the highest good of another person. That does mean that love has as one purpose to draw each other closer to the Lord. However, in the case of people who are closest to us, we often confuse a valid concern for another person's spiritual welfare with a desire for that person to act in ways that make us happy. When our attempts to love a particular person don't bring immediate relief for us, so often we want to throw up our hands and quit trying to love that person. That is manipulation, not love. I've seen that too often in myself.
By contrast, Jesus says, "Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:35-36, TNIV)"
I enjoy these two quotes from J. R. Miller about what true love is:
"It is easy to let bitterness creep into the heart when one has to endure wrong day after day, week after week, possibly year after years. There are women who know what this means. There are men, too, who meet this experience. Too often the darkness creeps into their souls and puts out the lights of love. Nothing on earth is sadder than this. It is a sort of death that is worse than dying. Whatever wrongs or cruelties we have to endure we should always keep love in our hearts. We should never allow its lamps to be put out. We should keep on loving and thus be more than conquerors over all the hardness that besets us. In all such experiences love will save us, keep us alive — and nothing else will.
Sometimes one finds a sweet fresh-water spring beside the sea. When the tide is low you may take your cup and drink of the pure well and the water is fresh as if it flowed from the bosom of a rock on the hillside. Then the sea rolls over and for long hours the brackish floods bury the little spring out of sight. But when the tide draws back again, you find the water sweet as ever. So love should be in our hearts when the black, brackish floods of wrong have swept over them. The love should never lose its sweetness."
"This is part of the lesson set for us, and it is a lesson not easy to learn. It is hard to receive injury from others and always to return kindness for it. Especially is it hard to suffer wrongfully and keep one’s heart sweet and loving through it all. Yet that is the lesson, and we find right here one of life’s most serious problems. We cannot avoid suffering at the hand of others. In the truest and most congenial friendships there sometimes are things which occasion pain. Even in the sweetest home there is frequent need of t he mutual forbearance and forgiveness. Then there are many who have to suffer continually, ofttimes cruelly and bitterly, at the hands of others.
Here then is the problem — to keep love in the heart through all unkindness, ingratitude, and injustice; never to allow bitterness to creep in; never to give way to any feeling of resentment; always to be forgiving, loving, and ready to help. It was thus that Christ went through His life to the very end, praying for His enemies even on His cross, and giving His life to save those who were driving Him out of His own world."