Friday, September 25, 2015

Love does not rejoice

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6)                      
This verse is tucked inside the famous "Love Chapter"of 1 Corinthians 13.  We have all heard it read at weddings and held up as the perfect kind of love we should aspire to... patient, kind, long-suffering, not boastful or rude. We can all agree that those things are loving. But there is some controversy in our society over verse six.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings. Another translation says love does not delight in evil. The Bible clearly states that it is not loving to celebrate sin. It is not loving to approve of actions that God says he will punish. 

The world says that Christians are haters because we don't applaud those lifestyles and choices that deviate from God's design. The world says Christians who support the biblical model of marriage and fidelity are intolerant bigots. But God says it is the opposite of love to applaud wrongdoing. Wouldn't it be more hateful to believe what God says about sin and death and hope and life and NOT tell people?  How much do I have to hate someone to approve of something they are doing that God says will bring condemnation? Even if you don't agree with me, you have to admit that according to 1 Corinthians 13:6, if I love you I cannot rejoice in your sin.  If I love you I will speak truth and not say what you want to hear. 

The argument is that we should all just love each other because Jesus loved everyone. That is true. Jesus loved the tax collectors and sinners, but he did not rejoice in what they were doing.  He loved the tax collectors and told them to give back the money they had stolen.  He loved the prostitutes and told them go and sin no more.  He loved the greedy man and told him to be generous.  He loved the gossips and told them to say only those things that build up and not those things that tear down.  He loved the prideful and told them to consider others better than themselves.  He loved the busy woman and told her to focus on what was really important in life. He loved the woman who was living with a man who was not her husband and told her how to worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus never rejoiced in wrongdoing or said it was okay to continue in sin.  Jesus loved people where they were and then said, "Be holy as I am holy." 

It's not surprising that Jesus wanted to eat with sinners. That's why he said he came--to seek and save the lost. What is surprising to me is that sinners wanted to eat with Jesus.  He was perfect, righteous, and holy... and sinners flocked to him. Most of us don't enjoy being around perfect people because they highlight our imperfections. So what was it about Jesus that drew people to him? The reason sinners were attracted to Jesus was because he was full of grace and truth.

Most of us lean one way or the other. If you are full of truth, but no grace, no sinner is ever going to want to eat with you. A grouchy legalist is not approachable. I sat by one the other day and I wanted to get away as soon as possible. We cannot sit and condemn people and expect them to be attracted to our Savior.

On the other hand, if you are full of grace without truth, you are like a bandaid on a gaping wound. You do good things and you try to make people feel better by covering up their brokenness without offering the truth that will truly heal them.

Jesus was not either/or.  He was both/and. He was holy and he was loving. His holiness was not a barrier to people because it was paired with love. Jesus met people where they were. He knew their sins and loved them anyway. He did not rejoice in their wrongdoing, but showed them a better way. If we are going to be like him, we have to approach people the same way.

Do you think you will escape the judgment of God?  Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:3-4)
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, declares the Lord. (Ezekiel 33:11)

1 comment:

Deb Mills said...

Wow! Well-said...never heard this really laid out until now. Thanks, Marlo. Beautiful.