By Pastor Mitch Horton | February 2007 | Posted in • Featured Content | (0) Comments
I am continuing my series in this issue as we discuss the characteristics of the love (agape) of God found in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (6) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never fails…
In our last lesson, we found that love "takes no account of the evil done to it: pays no attention to a suffered wrong (Amplified)." This is perhaps the best way to test ourselves as to whether or not we're walking in love. When we take no account, we treat others as if they had done nothing wrong to us! It's a test to the flesh, but this heart motivation gives us the ability to love the unlovely and unlovable ones! It sets the believer apart and enables us to be the salt and light that Jesus has called us to be!
Some may think that acting as though someone did you no harm is a sign of weakness. But it's just the opposite; it's a sign of great inner spiritual strength! Love is NOT weak, it IS unselfish!
Many have asked me over the years if there is ever a time to stand up and deal with negative behavior in others, and the answer is revealed in the next characteristic of love, found in 1 Corinthians 13:6: "Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth." The Amplified Bible translates this phrase as follows: It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Weymouth's translation reads: "She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth." The Living Paraphrase renders it: "It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out."
I call this the "other side of love." Love stands for what is right, and will stand up for others when their rights are being violated. Love will not stand by idly when God and His standards are being attacked. Love will confront wrong-doing in deference to the good of all involved!
How can you tell whether to "turn the other cheek" or to challenge a situation? Here's the deciding factor. When others do you wrong, you don't retaliate. Remember, love doesn't take account of the evil done to it; doesn't pay attention to a suffered wrong. But love will hold accountable those whose actions hurt others. Love always puts others first. And when someone is being hurt or unjustly dealt with, love will come to their defense.
To put it another way, when someone hurts me, I take no account of their actions, and treat them as if they did nothing wrong. But when they hurt someone else, I will stand for what is right and step in and act so that others will not be hurt.
Love will challenge the behavior of the alcoholic who is being irresponsible and leading his family into poverty or extreme debt. Love will challenge the person who abuses a child physically, emotionally, or sexually, and will do what is necessary to stop the hurtful actions. I've called law enforcement on a number of occasions when I saw that laws were being broken and pain was being inflicted on the innocent. When I called the authorities, I was really acting out of Agape love, because love "finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth."
I have stepped in and challenged husbands who for many years physically and psychologically abused their wives. I've encouraged parents to confront the irresponsible child in their 20's that lives in the home and doesn't work. The parents were actually acting out of selfish motives to allow this behavior to continue! They were only thinking of themselves, and not of the needed maturity in the life of their son or daughter.
It seems so mean for the mother eagle to push the baby eaglet out of that nest and watch it seemingly fall to its own death. But if mother eagle didn't force the eaglet to fly, it would be dependent on the mother for life, and would eventually die when the mother could no longer bring it enough food! So out of instinctive motherly love, the eagle knocks her baby eaglet out of the nest over and over again, and swooping down, catches it on her back just before it hits the ground.
Proverbs 27:5 reads: Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Today's English Version makes it clear: "Better to correct someone openly than to let him think you don't care for him at all." Love wants what is best for the other person, even if at the moment it takes a tough stand. Today we call it tough love.
Jesus is our Savior from sin, and He is also our example of living in a fallen world. Notice that he didn't smile and shake hands with the hypocrites selling their wares in the temple. Rather, He took out a whip and drove them away. He overturned their tables for money exchange, let loose the animals they were selling, and challenged their ungodly, deceiving actions! Did Jesus walk in love? Of course He did!
Jesus called the religious leaders of His day hypocrites and white-washed graves full of dead men's bones! Why did He act that way towards them? Because He loved them enough to be real and honest with them and loved others enough to expose the leaders' wrong behavior lest others become infected with it and fall into the same trap!
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica to have nothing to do with a person who is purposely acting in an ungodly way. He also tells them that a person who doesn't work (and is able to) should not be able to eat for free. He tells them not to fellowship with a believer who is living in a divisive, ungodly way, so that the deceived believer will be ashamed of himself and repent! "And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3: 14-15)."
On the surface, that seems unloving, but a closer look would reveal a heart desire to rescue a believer that may be headed down a path of destructive behavior.
In Titus 3:10-11, again Paul asserts tough love on a man who has been told to correct his behavior repeatedly, and just simply refuses to listen. He tells the church there in Crete to have nothing to do with him: "If anyone is causing divisions among you, he should be given a first and second warning. After that have nothing more to do with him, (11) for such a person has a wrong sense of values. He is sinning, and he knows it (Living)."
In 1 Corinthians 5, we find Paul dealing with a man who is involved in an immoral relationship with his step-mother, and is flaunting his actions in the church in Corinth. Read the entire chapter, and you'll find Paul acting in love as he turns the man over to the devil so that his spirit will be saved. He then tells the Christians in the church to have absolutely no fellowship with this man until he repents!
In Hebrews 12: 5-11, we find that God chastens and deals with those he really loves. And in Revelation 3: 14-20, we find Jesus telling the church in Laodicea to repent of their lukewarmness or He will vomit them out of His mouth! He says in verse 19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore and repent."
God is love, and love, though kind, is also full of discipline and honesty. Fear keeps the peace at all costs, even to the point of holding back from needed confrontation. Proverbs 28:23 makes it so clear: He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.
In summary, love is kind to all, does not respond in kind to wrongs committed against it, and will be silent toward personal persecution. But, love will defend the weak and stand for truth when unfair actions hurt others.
May the Lord enable us all to be set free from fear that refuses to confront problems when necessary, and to be filled with the love of God which "does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail."
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