The Things Love Is Not

Good day sweet friends,

It feels like a long while since we took a peek into Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 13. We have covered a lot of territory. In the next two weeks will finish up the things that Paul said love is and does. In this time, and the fallout of whatever hits our country tomorrow, I think it is imperative we take time to ask God how we love well.

In the middle of Paul’s list of love there are three statements which, at first, can seem out of place. It is a list of things that love does not do.

Love does not fly into a temper, it keeps no memory of wrong, and finds no pleasure in evil.

The Message says, “love doesn’t fly off the handle, (it) doesn’t keep score of the sins of others or revel when others grovel.

The root of these three actions is pride, something that has no place in love.

Let’s look at each statement individually.

Love is not provoked

Barclay says that “love never becomes exasperated with people. … When we lose our tempers, we lose everything.”

In love, we do not retaliate. We do not say the cruel things in our head. We are able to hold our tongue and lay down our need to be “right” or for revenge.

It is very easy to let our anger win. It is so easy to say things before we think. To send out a text when we are angry. To do destructive things with our anger versus taking a moment and letting the heat of it pass.

We have control over our anger. To say we cannot help it is to be mastered by it and, as people of faith, we are to be mastered by nothing. If you find yourself easy to anger then go to God and let Him meet you there. It will take a rewiring of your responses, to count to ten, to go for a walk, to spend five minutes taking deep breaths. It will require taking every thought captive to not allow yourself to become more provoked as you count (of which I am guilty), but to instead turn your thoughts to God and let Him work in you.

In the end, anger costs us more than it is worth. It destroys relationships, breaks trust, shatters our witness almost faster than anything else.  

“Love can be angry with sin,” Alan Redpath writes. “But love is never irritable or touchy.” 

Love Has a Short Memory

You know people who have an elephant’s memory. They can remember everyone who has been unkind to them, said something rude to them, or stole their toy in preschool. It is easy to keep a list of grievances. But love does not store up a memory of wrongs done against it.

The word used here for store up is an accounting term, it is an entry in a ledger.

Too many people keep their relationships like a ledger, putting in deposits and deductions based on how people relate to them. We spend so much of our time retaining reminders of our hatred, refusing to see the God-image buried in each person. We put ourselves in the center of everything and weigh interactions based on perceived loyalty. But, as I used to tell my students, no one is really thinking about you. Stop reading into people’s words or actions as if you are the top thing on anyone else’s mind.

“Love will always keep a record of the many kindnesses it receives, and be thankful for them, but love will not keep a record of wrongs it has suffered with a view of getting even. It does not cherish in its memory a list of injustices; love has an amazing power to forget.” (Alan Redpath)

Christian love has learned the great lesson of forgetting

William Barclay

“(Love) never supposes that a good action may have a bad motive… The original implies that he does not invent or devise any evil.” (Clarke)

Put another way, love believes the best in others. It chooses to believe people are doing their best and so chooses not to remember the wrongs. It gives people grace for moments of embarrassment, for failing to live up to our expectations, for things said in anger or a rush. It excuses other people and, in the end, is better for it.

This does not mean there is a lack of accountability. God is not interested in abusive, false forgetting that by-passes all need for accountability and change. Once a person has said sincerely apologized, or once you have drawn necessary boundaries, you do not hold a person’s actions against them. Even in the ultimate example of love having no memory, Jesus taking our sin on the cross, we still have to come and repent of what we have done to receive that extraordinary grace.

Love finds no joy in evil.

Most of us would say we do not enjoy doing evil, that we do not do what is wrong. But how many of us love to spread gossip? How much do we inwardly relish when an actor falls from grace or some sports star is revealed to be human? How much do we love when the perfect portrait of someone else’s life is shattered?

The proliferation of gossip magazines, that may or may not try to come off as “entertainment news,” attests to our love of seeing other people fall. Even our media is more focused on entertainment than news and a lot of times comes off as gossip and painting someone as good and someone else as the villain.

The American fairy tale of the evil one getting their comeuppance attests to our need to see the playing field leveled. We live in a society where if someone puts their head up too high, we will find a way to whack-a-mole them down to size again. This jealously is rooted in arrogance, which cannot exist alongside love.

“Love does not delight in exposing the weakness of other people. It will weep over sin and be brokenhearted over failure; it will condemn the sin, but love will always yearn to cover and protect the man who has fallen.” (Redpath)

Love is wanting the best for others. Love is realizing there is enough to go around and so someone else’s success does not mean less for me.

On a more practical note, applicable for where we are today, love cannot delight in another’s downfall. You cannot love someone and want them dead. You cannot love someone and wish them ill. You cannot love someone and gloat over their defeat.

Yes, some people are very hard to love. But you can wish the best for someone in the midst of holding them accountable and seeing them out of your life.

You can be exceedingly grateful that a person no longer manages your country and yet, hope and pray that they find peace and normalcy in whatever comes next.

I want to be someone who can look at the person beyond their actions. I want to, at their core, see a human being God created. Did they make poor decisions? Yes. Are they selfish? Yes. Do they need to be held accountable? Absolutely. But they are still a creation of the God who made you and me and the person we love the most. They are still worthy of our sincere prayers, and, to be honest, a cordial dinner if they should ever come around.

That is the heart of love.

Jesus had dinner with tax collectors. He spoke civilly with the Pharisees. He invited the thief on the cross to join Him in heaven. So you and I should strive to love “our enemies.” For as Jesus said, it is by our love that we shall be known. I have found that love is still the most powerful force in the world, capable of changing even those we find to be far removed from God’s grace.

Love controls its anger. Love forgets. Love cheers others on.

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