Love Bears All Things

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Someone asked me recently why I chose to preach through 1 Corinthians 13. Several of you have asked over the last few weeks. My early response had to do with a desire that we all look rightly as a church about Christian ministry and service. That if we as a church are going to be involved in ministry and service to each other and with our community that one thing we must understand is what true Christian, biblical love is. Because we can’t serve rightly and effectively serve Christ in others’ lives if we are not loving properly the way God describes love in His Word. My thinking was, if we are going to be effective ministers of our Lord, then we have to get this right, we must understand what real biblical love is. I think this is true if we are evangelizing the lost, counseling people, teaching Sunday school, tutoring children, taking a hot meal to someone in need, taking a phone call from someone in crisis, adopting children, driving a stranger to church, putting money in the offering plate. Whatever we do in service to our Lord, and consequently to our neighbors, the Bible is clear it must be saturated in love. That was at least in part a driving factor in choosing this study on 1 Corinthians 13. 

Now, when asked a few weeks later, I may still repeat that, but I also include, “God really needed to teach me about biblical love!” And so, as He is teaching me, I hope you find something in this study for yourself as well. If not, then just be happy He is teaching me!

Do you remember the first time, if you are married, do you remember the first time you told your spouse that you loved him or her? For me it was at the mature age of eighteen. I was sure that I had found the girl that I would marry. Eighteen and a half, I had known Tammy for probably a few weeks at this point in our relationship. We were standing one night under a huge oak tree near the house where I lived. I looked at her, and with great insight and understanding of all that is packed in the word, I said, “I love you.” I was a little nervous, wasn’t sure how she would respond. But there you go, I said it. The question she could have asked was, “What do you mean by that?”

If asked, I’m sure I would have said something like this: “When I say I love you, I mean that I will always be patient with you, and I’ll be kind to you always, I will not let jealousy or envy creep into our relationship. I will not boast to make myself look good, and I certainly will not be arrogant or rude with you. Oh, and I’ll not insist on my way, so don’t ever think I’ll insist on my way. We will go your way most often. And what you do will not irritate me, nor will I resent you, because that would just be wrong. I’ll not keep records if you sin against me. I will not rejoice in wrong, but only in righteousness in our relationship. And finally, I’ll bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things! That is what I mean when I say I love you!”

Okay, I wouldn’t have said all that. I probably would have just said, “Well, you know, I just love you! Isn’t that enough?” I don’t think I knew much of anything about real love back then.

The point is that saying “I love you” can be nice, and sound sweet and all, but really, what do we mean? What is biblical love? Apart from God’s Word we wouldn’t have a clue. I am thankful that we have it defined and described, and I am most thankful that we can see better how Christ loves us.

Loving biblically is something that we can grow into, it is not something that we have perfectly achieved. It is an aim, a goal, what we should be drawn to as Christians, and it is evidence of God’s work in us. It’s God’s work in His children because it is alien to our sinful nature.

This morning we will consider another aspect of love. We will see that “love bears all things.” The beginning of verse 7, reading from the ESV, says, “love bears all things.”

I want us to try to understand what God is teaching us here with these words. If you are looking at the NIV you will notice that the word used is “protects,” and other versions say, “love covers.” The Greek word has two primary meanings. One meaning has to do with endurance, or to put up with for a long period of time. We see it this way in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 where Paul says, “when I could bear it no longer.” He is talking about endurance, “When I could take it no longer.” Something, his trial, had weighed on him, pressed him greatly to the point where he longed for relief. This does not seem to be Paul’s primary meaning from verse 7, mainly because it would be redundant with the last word, or phrase, in verse 7 which says, “love endures all things.” 

The other meaning is that of a covering. To cover or protect. The same Greek word is sometimes used or translated “roof,” like the roof or covering over a house or a room. In Mark 2 this same word is translated roof in the account where the four men dug out an opening in the roof of a house where Jesus was preaching, so that they could lower their sick friend through the roof down to Jesus, so that Jesus could heal him.

So bearing all things could be like a covering, covering all things. Literally it could be like putting a roof over what is displeasing in another person. Now that may sound odd to us, and we will need to think about what that would mean or look like. It is to cover, to throw a cover over what might be displeasing, to protect or preserve by covering.

Wayne Mack says, “When we tell someone ‘I love you,’ we are telling that person that we will function as an umbrella or a roof that will shield and protect that person from harm or unnecessary and unhelpful exposure.”

John MacArthur comments, “to bear basically means to cover or support and therefore protect. Love bears all things by protecting others from exposure, ridicule, or harm. Genuine love does not gossip or listen to gossip. Even when sin is certain, love tries to protect it with the least possible hurt and harm to the guilty person. Love never protects sin but is anxious to protect the sinner.”

So bearing here seems to mean a protecting, covering from unnecessary hurt or harm. It is loving, it is caring for another person, it is watching out for them, for their good, to do this in their life. Don’t we want others to be that way with us?

Now my guess would be that this raises some questions. And I want to anticipate your questions. Like, “How far do I go with someone to protect them from hurt or harm due to their behavior?” Or, “Are you saying that I am to cover up someone’s sins, to help them hide their sin so that it is covered over like a roof covers a house?” “Am I to shield my spouse or my friend or my child when they sin from outside exposure, or even from getting help if they are taken up in a sin?”

Those are good questions, hugely important, and ones that I hope we can be clear on this morning. Here is how I would like to address these things. Obviously we need help with these questions, and our help is to emerge from the Bible, so let’s address these questions as the Bible does. Let’s do it in two categories.

First, let’s consider what it means to cover, protect, and guard, to bear with a person when there is no sin involved. So first is a non-sin issue. What does it mean to bear with a person, protect, cover, or guard them when sin is not the issue? When I say sin is not the issue, I mean how do we handle a situation where another person may be different than we are, have a vastly different personality, be from a different culture, their ways are just not like our ways, where we may have a tendency to say, “That is weird,” or, “What they do is odd.” To bear with others is first of all to recognize that many issues are preferences and not sinful. We have to learn to know the difference. Because we must handle them differently.

So we must be careful to be sure that our concern is not generated by a personality difference, or the fact that they don’t do things the way I do, or how I would do it. We need to realize that there are multiple ways to do things, and ours isn’t always best. That not all people choose to dress like we dress, or use the english language like we do. Everyone does not share the same interests and passions. We are different, and those differences are okay within the bounds of non-sinful behavior and preferences.

And so if we see things that aren’t quit fitting to our personal standards or likes, we are not to be those who run to our neighbor and say things like, “You’ll never believe what so and so did, that was just really odd.” Or, “I can’t believe she wore that to the party. Can you?” Or, “How could anyone be so strange as to enjoy that in his leisure time?” Or, “Why in the world would she spend money on this?” Or, “Can you believe the car they drive, or the food they eat, or the job he does?”

I am describing our tendency, at times, to put other people on display by emphasizing what we perceive as oddities, strangeness which are simply differing preferences. It is attempting to draw attention to others in a very negative, harmful, or hurtful way. Encouraging others to see things our way while emphasizing differences in others. Love does not do this. Love does not gossip or listen to gossip.

We are to bear with people, not just throw everything out there that might bring harm or hurt to others or just make them look bad; that is not loving. Consider others’ interests ahead of our own. Understand that we are different, and that our ways may be odd or strange to others too.

So we need to separate out what are non-sinful preferences from what is sin. If it is not sin, the solution is generally not to approach the other person, but to consider our own heart and attitude in the matter. Most often in these cases it is not an issue with them but an issue with whom? With ourselves!

In other words, in the case of a non-sin issue, the covering and bearing what is displeasing to us is done by dealing with our own pride and selfish thinking or actions, and learning to be more accepting of other people’s differences.

What if there is sin involved, then what? If there is sin involved then how do we cover, protect or guard, bear with others in a biblical way? Paul cannot mean that we simply ignore harmful sin in others’ lives. He cannot mean that we throw a covering over it in that we look the other way or pretend it is not there. How can I say that? Because Jesus said in Luke 17:13, “Pay attention to yourselves, If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.” And in Matthew 18:5, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Paul cannot mean that we ignore sinful behavior, because in Galatians 1-3 Paul reproves the Galatians for distorting the gospel of Christ. Paul even gives specific instruction regarding dealing with a sinning brother or sister.

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

We are directed in they Bible to help those caught in a transgression. So bearing with, covering, protecting, and guarding, does not, cannot mean that we ignore sin, but that we can be a part of a ministry of restoration in people’s lives. And this restoration ministry is in fact one of guarding, protecting, bearing, and covering. Think about a roof of protection, or protection by covering. We can be that in the lives of those we love by going to them in gentleness and helping them to turn back to God, by bearing their burdens in this way. And by not being a gossip to others. We cannot, should not desire to restore others by breaking confidence or spreading another person’s sins to those who are not involved. 

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. (Proverbs 10:12)

MacArthur says, “Love does not justify sin or compromise with falsehood. Love warns, corrects, exhorts, rebukes and disciplines. But love does not expose or broadcast failures and wrongs. It covers and protects.”

Going back to Galatians, if someone is caught, meaning entangled in a trap, snared by sin, go to him in gentleness, desire restoration, and bear that burden with him or her. Walk with the sinner, be willing to suffer in your own heart as you enter into his struggle and even begin to feel some of the pain of consequence as it effects him. Walk with your brother, and as you do protect that person from undue personal harm that your gossip may cause.

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

Sometimes the bearing with another requires a strict confidence that becomes your own burden.

What we are talking about here is really this: when someone offends you because of sin or because of a personal preference, handling it biblically is a protection not just for you, but is a protection to the other person. Handling it biblically is like a roof of protection over his head.

If it’s a non-sin issue, then let’s deal with our own hearts. No need to approach the other person with a desire to change them. Simply learn to accept differences in others and don’t spread hurtful comments about that person which would be hurtful gossip.

If there is sin involved, go to that person. You who are spiritual go. It’s between you and the other person. Go to them. 

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

If He doesn’t listen, there are further steps which in the end shows that the circle gets wider as far as who is aware of the sin. But it starts very small, with a personal appeal. Most of the time this is as far as it gets, right? No need, almost always, for many to know.

Here is a summary. You and I are to be like a protective roof over the lives of each other. This is love, this is how we love each other. If we love, our desire is to be that we hold things close, that we do not spout off about people, that we do not expose their ways in a hurtful way that may be different than ours, that we do not say, “You will never believe what so and so did,” or things such as that. We cover them, we protect them from the harm that those words may bring.

And that we even do so when sin is involved. Yes we admonish, we confront, we minister in the spirit of reconciliation, with gentleness, but we do it privately, in a way that most protects them. That is biblical. We go in private, and we keep it private as long as it’s biblical to do so. We don’t harm others by broadcasting their sin to others. No, even then, we are to be like a protective roof. And you know, if we go further in Matthew 18 and read that if they don’t repent, we take others with us, even then it remains private among those who go. And if we go even further in Mathew 18, where the matter is told to the church, even then, it is not a matter for gossip but for loving restoration.

We really have to check our hearts on this. Are you, am I ever tempted to talk about others in a way that would be hurtful to them? If so, perhaps we need to consider 1 Corinthians 13:7. Love bears all things! Protects, covers, guards.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:1-7a)