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. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
One reason I love 1 Corinthians 13 and the truths that we find in it is that it helps us to counter some of our natural tendencies that need to be countered. One of our greatest challenges in life is that we naturally engage in discrimination. We can, if we allow it, be those who will naturally choose to associate with and befriend only certain people, and we will therefore ignore and treat some badly. In other words, we have tendencies to pick those whom we will love and withhold love from others. We can and we do pick and choose who we will treat well, and who we will treat not so good. It is a terrible thing really.
We see this early on in human history. Cain for instance despised his brother Abel. And what was his decision based on? It was based on what Cain perceived as an unfair treatment of whom? Of himself. And so since Cain felt like he was being mistreated, he turned on his brother with such force of hate that he killed him. Cain made a decision that he would go after his brother, obviously withholding love from him.
After spending several weeks in 1 Corinthians 13, one thing that really stands out for us is that this love that we are to possess, that God describes for us, is a love that does not pick and choose its object, nor does it discriminate against some people. We are to love because God has loved us, this love that we are to have for others has nothing to do with how those others are acting toward us. We don’t love others because they are loving us. No, we love others because God has loved us.
Enough with spending time trying to decide who we are going to love. That is not even a valid question. A better question may be, “How are we going to love everyone? How are we going to love those who treat us well and make us feel good, and how are we going to love those who treat us badly or are even sinning against us?”
This is what makes love so powerful, and this is why Paul describes love as the more excellent way. It is the way to have the most impact in any Christian ministry. A thorough, consistent, relevant saturation of love in all that we do will be the main ingredient for impactful Christian ministry that glorifies God in the eyes of all people.
And so when God says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude,” it is not as if we need to ask, “Who will be the recipient of my patience or my kindness? Who will I behave myself around by not being envious or boastful? Who might I hold back around with my rudeness or arrogance?” No, it is, “Who am I around right now? Who is crossing my path today, and how can I love whoever that is in these ways?” This would include people who are kind to us and people who are not, people who are patient with us and people who will never be patient with us. People who are not envious or boasting with pride, arrogance and rudeness, and people who are!
Paul goes on, “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It means loving those who demand their own way and people who do not, loving the irritable and loving those who are resentful, loving those who are not irritable or resentful.
It takes a load off of our shoulder that says I must be discerning and discriminatory with my love. No, we cannot do that, there is no place for discrimination when it comes to loving other people. We really have to get that right! And be settled with that. We must get that right if we are going to have fruitful ministry for the glory of God.
Let others hate, but let us love. Most are not capable of the love we are talking about here. Most cannot because they do not know Christ nor have the Holy Spirit in them. We can because we have both.
So no judgments to be made, no wrestling with who we are going to love, only, “How are we going to love? What will it look like in whatever context I am currently in?”
So for today we will continue with verse 7 – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
We ended last time talking about “love believes all things,” but we only got halfway through it. We mostly established what this does not mean. When we read that love believes all things, we determined that it does not mean that we are to be gullible or naive in our relationships with other people. We looked at many passages that instruct us to be discerning and cautious. We are not to be as fools, believing falsehoods that can lead to all sorts of disastrous results. This does not mean that we are to believe everything we hear, even when it is obviously untrue or unbiblical. If we were to believe lies, then we would living life contrary to how God instructs us to live.
So if it does not mean that we are to blindly believe everything we are told or that we read, what does it mean when Paul writes that love believes all things? I believe it means this. And think about this for yourself. That if we as Christians are loving other people, if loving other people is going to be a dominant feature in how we relate to other people, then we will not allow judgmental suspicions and critical attitudes to become the mainstay of our relationships. Or you could say it this way. When we don’t have all the facts in any given situation, then we will not choose to believe what would be the most damaging or judgmental thing based on the facts available to us. It is believing the best in others when we don’t know or cannot know all the facts. So, if we don’t have the cold hard facts that prove someone has done evil, then we are obligated to think the best, believe all we can with a good conscience to the other person’s credit.
This is the opposite of being judgmental. When we are being judgmental, we tend to think the worst of other people. If we don’t have all the facts, we fill in with negative ones. We fill in with what may make the other person look the worst, not the best. We may say things like, “Well, so and so, I know how he is. No I didn’t see him speak rudely to her, but I’m sure he did; that is how he is! No I didn’t see her steal from her mother, but believe me, I know she did!” Or sometimes it is judging motives which we cannot see. “Do you know why she bought that dress? Well I do, and let me tell you what she was thinking when she bought that dress!” This is having a critical spirit, a judgmental spirit, an attitude of pride that says, “I know how people respond and even how they think, and it’s not pretty.” This is holding ourselves in very high regard, almost thinking that we are omnipotent, like we can know things about other people when we really can’t.
John MacArthur wrote and said, “Love will always opt for the most favorable possibility. If a loved one is accused of wrong, love will consider him innocent until proven guilty. If he turns out to be guilty, love will give him credit for the best motive.”
In James 3:17 it says that the wise person is open to reason. He is one who is willing to listen to facts, weigh the facts. He doesn’t jump to prideful conclusions thinking that his negative interpretation of partial facts is always correct. We must listen, gather information, and be careful not to make hasty judgments that put others unfairly in a bad light.
There are lots of places in the Bible where we see hasty judgmental conclusions by individuals that do not have all the information. One place where we see others do this very thing, make judgements without cause, is in the book of Job. Job had some friends, in some respects some faithful friends. Upon hearing of Job’s life-altering trials, terrible trials, they came to him and at first simply sat with him saying nothing for seven days. They grieved for him.
But then some things began to happen. These men, these friends, began to jump to some conclusions, and those conclusions were that God was punishing Job for flagrant sin in his life. They never gathered information, and they refused to listen to Job. Their take was, “Wow, this is all really bad. These things don’t just happen for no cause. Job must, he must be hiding terrible, terrible sin. Why else would this happen?”
Judgements made, wrongfully so. And in the process Job’s character was being attacked. I would say that in the case of Job’s friends, they failed to life out 1 Corinthians 13:7, “love believes all things.” Believes all things as long as all of the facts are not open and properly understood. They failed to believe the best in Job and drew false conclusions.
Another example is found in John 9.
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1-5)
The disciples saw a situation, a man who was blind. The interpretation was that blindness is a bad thing, and bad things are caused by sinful behavior, in this case either sinful behavior by the man himself or the sinful acts of the mother and/or father. In their minds the cause was one of the two.
Their conclusion was based on their small understanding of life, of God, of God’s purposes, of God’s glory, of God’s will. They were so limited in their understanding of the facts that they failed to even consider the correct conclusion until Jesus emphatically states it.
He was born blind so that God might, through his life, that God might be put on display. He was blind for the glory of God. That was the reason. And instead of considering that, these disciples only thought the worst of him and of his parents.
We are so limited in our thinking, aren’t we? We see things and say, “That is bad,” and yet God may be saying, “It’s for my glory.” We observe people and think, “They must have really messed up in life,” and God may be saying, “This is my will and for my glory.” Judgments made, incomplete facts analyzed, and in the process we can trash someone’s character and their situation so quickly! The apostle Paul faced this…
4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
Paul was a busy man, a servant, a minister of the Gospel, and yet some found it necessary to judge him, judge his actions, his motives, and they did so wrongly. In 1 Thessalonians 2 he was accused of desiring to simply please men, which was far from the truth.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)
The Pharisees were concerned with looking good while being critical of other peoples’ hearts. The Pharisees were always claiming to know more about people than they really did, and using their wrong judgments to bring people down.
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)
The New Testament is replete with examples of those who are quick to judge, quick to pass judgments on other people, quick to make others look bad, whether or not they have really acted badly or not. We may be able to relate, to think of some personal examples that hit close to home.
A child comes to a parent with some juicy commentary on how badly their brother or sister has acted, with very few or sketchy facts. A friend picks up the phone to relay a half true story about a shared acquaintance. A fellow church member sees a conversation from a distance and immediately begins to form opinions in his mind about what is going on, and later shares it with someone else as a fact. A decision is made by church leaders based on confidential information and members become suspicious. A spouse overhears a phone conversation and thinks the worst about his partner.
We are talking this morning about biblical love. Loving others requires that we are slow to criticize, so slow that we take the time to gather solid information before we even consider sharing negative things. And even then, only share those things that are biblically necessary for the loving good of a brother or sister in Christ.
Now, there is one thing that we must do, that we must understand this morning about this passage before we finish up here. We need to be sure that we clearly see what this means, what this passage means for each one of us as Christians. Because, remember why Paul wrote this chapter, he is very specific about his purpose as the Holy Spirit gave him these words. The purpose of this chapter on love is not so that we might have a good passage to recite at weddings. It is good for that, but it doesn’t seem that Paul had that in mind. He did not give us this chapter so that we could make nice wall hangings from it to display in our homes. It is not just a fluff chapter to make us feel good about the Bible.
No, his purpose is very clear, do you remember what it is? The Corinthian church was very confused about ministry and service. They were confused in thinking that the way to be most effective in Christian ministry was to have certain spiritual gifts that really stood out as miraculous. Everyone wanted to be a healer or a prophet or one who speaks in tongues. They coveted the gifts that would put them on display, out in front of the crowd, ones that would make them seem super spiritual.
And Paul says what, at the very end of 1 Corinthians 12? “I will show you a still more excellent way.” A more excellent way for what? A most excellent way to have the greatest impact in this world. Paul in chapter 13 is letting us in on the most effective Christian ministry ever. And it is the way of love.
And so if we are talking this morning about believing all things, thinking the best in others, not being critical, not being judgmental, we have to bring that around and understand it to see why this concept of love of believing all things, how exactly it enhances our ministry to others through Christ. That is what we have to see and understand. How does this attribute of love effect our ministry, our service to others for the glory of God? How does it?
Think of it this way. You have made a mistake. You have really messed up. You have messed up and you know it. Maybe it was an oversight on your part, but it has really effected people around you in a negative way. You are feeling really rotten, and to make it worse, people who are close to you, they know it too. Your tendency is to wallow in this bad situation, to beat yourself up, to go over it again and again in your mind. You are having difficulty getting past this one, and it has now been days going on weeks and you just can’t let it go. It wasn’t really even a sin, just an oversight, but one that is big.
What do you need? Where do you go? Who do you go to? Do you go to someone who is going to say, “Yeah, there you go again, I could see this one coming from miles away, look what you did to others, look how you have messed everyone’s lives up. You are so lazy, and careless, and inconsiderate!” Are you going to go to that person? Probably not.
How about going to one who will think the best of you in this. They know you are not perfect, no one is, and they are not going to come down on you with quick judgments. Someone who will not criticize you, or rub your face in it. How about someone who, instead of pounding on you, who points you to Christ, to the Gospel, to the forgiving work of Christ, to the One who loves you, who cares for you, who has sacrificed for you on the cross, and who anxiously waits for you in heaven? Don’t we need that at times? Don’t we need that person? That person who rights our path, who sets our paths straight, who reminds us of our position before God. Even if it is a sin issue, we still need that person, don’t we?
So the question I want to leave with each one of us is: are we that person? Are we the person that receives others with much grace, with a love that says, “I will think the best of you, I will not be critical of you, I will be patient with you and listen, gather information, not be sinfully judgmental with you.” Is that the person that we are in the eyes of those we minister to? Our family, our co-workers, our ministry partners, our neighbors?
Are we the one that our associates say, “I will go to him or to her, and he or she will treat me lovingly, in a caring way, he will point me rightly to the gospel, to Christ. He will not jump to conclusions, or judge me unfairly, he will be a help to me.” If we are that person, then opportunities for real Christian ministry will come pouring into our lives. Where we thought we had no opportunities for ministry, we will see otherwise. We will be the ones who get to speak truth into people’s lives for their good, and for the glory of our God. Think so? I think so, I think that is what Paul is getting at here. Will we be that person?
5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:5-8)
God has loved us, and so we are to love other people. That love means that we are to believe all things. Think the best of others when we don’t have all the facts.
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 (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)