One Corinthians 13 we continue looking at the nature of love, so we look to the reading of God’s word. If you please join me in prayer.
O Lord, we ask that you would shed your light upon us by being rid of the darkness of our hearts, that we may come to the true light, which is Christ, the light of the world, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Beginning in verse four, reading from the NIV, mixing it up just a little bit. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres the word of the Lord.
You please be seated.
At times I’ve come across a story of someone literally having a notebook where they have recorded the wrongs done to them by others. And not talking about members of the mob, but of actual Christians, christians with notebooks of wrongs. I’ve also heard testimonies where people have spoken of burning up their notebooks or getting rid of them in some way, destroying them. And of course you hear that and go, well, praise God, that’s wonderful. But let’s go back to the you had an actual notebook of wrongs part.
Look at anything. If someone were to say like, well, how have you failed me? Volume five, page twelve. We’ll just look at last week and you see that it sounds a little crazy. But most of us probably have memories like that filled and stored in our heads of wrongs that have been to us, even if we may not have an actual literal notebook.
And Paul, he speaks to this kind of resentment, along with a heart that’s easily offended or irritated. That’s why the ESB translates this verse as irritable or resentful, but a quick fuse and a long memory. It works against the kind of love that Paul is asking us to have. Because love is to be both even tempered and long tempered. At stake are not only our relationships with each other, but also with the world at large.
A porcupine is not our mascot. A cactus is not the tree of the church. The love that we have needs to be willing to open itself up to others, even when we’re wrong. And this love also must include a willingness to embrace our enemies. And since in Christ Jesus the Lord has canceled our record of sins, we must keep no record of wrongs done to us.
The Corinthians were easily provoked by one another. They were drifting into cults of personality, keeping grudges, and they were undoing their Christian community. And so the apostle Paul, he speaks to what love is not to look like, because that’s what they were doing, that’s what they were practicing. And he is saying that love is not to be easily ruffled. Love is not to be slow, to forget wrongs.
And the first part of that love is not easily angered or irritated. The idea here is that what other people do or say sets you off. It could be that you feel provoked, exasperated by them, poked or goaded in some way. The meaning doesn’t always have to be negative. In act 17, when Paul first came to Athens for the first time, we read it says that his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city was full of idols.
And so Paul, seeing all of these idols in his idolatry, was provoked. And what did he do? He proclaimed to them the good news of Jesus.
Other times we read, it isn’t quite so nice. Acts 15, paul and Barnabas have this tremendous dispute, and there we read, there arose a sharp disagreement in the poking part, so that they separated from each other. It’s the same word, but as a noun. Such a sharp conflict that these two brothers separated.
And we see the tendency that this brings to us of being easily irritated with one another. We have several ways to describe this kind of person. We might say, oh, her feathers are easily ruffled. Oh, he’s easily offended. Oh, don’t do that, or she’s going to get all bent out of shape.
OOH, careful what you say there. He’s really touchy. We understand that we have multiple ways of describing this kind of behavior. We see it within ourselves all the time. And this is exactly what Christians are not to be.
And we live in a time where we have an actual response called cancel culture. We have flash mobs of Twitter responses of easily anger people everywhere. Not so in the church, of course. You meet these saying, well, what about the dumb things that people do or say? What am I supposed to do with that?
Can’t just ignore it. Well, some advice from a couple of generations ago. I put this in your boat. And from Carl Bards of the well known theologian, he says, love cannot change the fact that my neighbor gets on my nerves.
I can’t change that fact. My neighbor gets on my nerves. But love as selfgiving can rule out my allowing myself to be provoked by him. The Christian cannot become an antagonist of his neighbor. Love as self giving means letting go of a right to be angry or provoked for their good, not about you, it’s for their good.
That’s the nature of love to give to someone else. Yes, people get on our nerves, and at times even the people we have really good relationships with, and like, we get on one another’s nerves. But we must choose not to be provoked, to not be an antagonist to others. And yes, this is a choice. How often we try and make it seem like it’s not our fault.
We say things like, well, if you hadn’t pushed my buttons, I wouldn’t have gotten upset. Well, you made me mad. You triggered me. No, we choose to respond with anger. It’s an action.
Anger doesn’t just happen to us by somebody else. It doesn’t just fall on us. We don’t get to use the Aaron defense strategy. When the golden calf fiasco happened, aaron was like, I don’t know how this carved golden calf came to be here. I just threw some gold into the fire, and now to jump.
Strangest thing ever. And we feel that way about our anger. We try to pull out the victim card to justify it. And it’s something that we choose to enter into. It’s not something that is done to us beyond that.
A Scottish evangelist, he once remarked that one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics. He said, it’s a combination of a person with a real high moral character who is easily offended. Another described it as having it my way in the name of integrity. There are those who are seemingly of high moral character who are easily upset in the name of morality. If you don’t agree with him or you don’t see it their way, you often get a blast of their socalled righteous indignation.
They might label it like, well, I’m just passionate. I’m passionate about the truth. Proverbs sees it differently. Proverbs 22 says, make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man. Whoa.
What about righteous anger? I mean, Paul did say in your anger, don’t sin. Here’s a good diagnostic for the heart regarding righteous anger. Do you get provoked for the cause of others, or is it just about you? Can you let wrongs done to you roll off your back like water on a duck, but stand up for the rights of other people?
You see, if you’re in a habit of combining that word righteous with your anger, be very suspicious of your own heart. If you’re a straight shooter I’m a straight shooter who just tells it like it is. You’re probably just a shooter.
We need to be very careful of our own hearts. They’re so prone to justify all of our actions, to see it in the best light. Now, the second part of Paul’s statement here, he says, love keeps no record of
wrongs. A variety of translations, but the main idea carries through a wordforword. Reading would be, love does not calculate the evil, count the evil.
The main word used here is one from math and accounting. It’s actually a favorite of Paul’s when he’s talking about faith and righteousness. He uses it a lot in the New Testament. In Romans four, he says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Later in Romans four, righteousness will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two corinthians five. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against him. So here Paul is saying something like love doesn’t keep score. It doesn’t notice the wrong done by others. It doesn’t nurse a grudge from one commentator.
He says, it does not enter it into a notebook for future. Revenge. Now, we’ve seen this played out. I’m sure you’ve seen in the families. In fact, sometimes there can be something that’s happened in the family so long ago that people actually forget the specifics of why they’re upset.
But what has not been forgotten is that I was wrong and they need to pay for it. Even though I don’t remember how it was wronged, they need to pay for it in some way. People can wait for years. Plotting their revenge and savoring thoughts of vengeance, nursing wounds and feeling both sorry for themselves and then never letting go of what was done to them.
The chilling story of Edgar Allan Poe The Cask of Amatiato is a scary story that you’ve probably read in grade school beyond done in movies. And the same principle applies in multiple places. There the villain actually in Tombs Alive, the man who slighted him years ago, brick by brick, and how chilling that is. Because that’s often what we do with people. We want to get back brick by brick to whatever way we felt wrong, by them not letting it go until it’s paid for.
But real love is just the opposite. Real love has a slow fuse and a short memory. I appreciate Calvin speaking on this verse. He says, love is a bridal to repress quarrels. Love is a bridal to repress quarrels.
See? Just like a bridal. Is used to direct a horse. So love is a bridal that directs our responses. The Holy Spirit pulling back and tugging and no, let’s go over this way.
Let’s stay out of that spot. That’s not going to be good for your heart. Let’s move over here instead. Or what? Bart said again love cannot change the fact that my neighbor gets on my nerves.
But love as selfgiving can rule, can direct rule out my allowing myself to be provoked by him, direct me away from being provoked. So rather than judging the sinful heart of others and seeing how constantly they are falling short of my expectations, falling short of what I think I deserve the heart and is directed to a different place. Love bridles our response. It bridles our thoughts. Now, somewhere out there is this idea that comes up that well, it’s better just to vent your frustration than to bottle all up and blow up.
Better to vent then to blow. No, that’s terrible advice. All that does is create a habit. That justifies bad behavior. The love of God is to change our character.
The fruit of the spirit is selfcontrol, not venting. It’s actually exercising control. Not to vent, not to reach out in a provocative way because we feel slighted. Love looks to the good of the other person. Is it good for them if you vent all over them?
No, it’s not. We often want to give the worst interpretation for someone else’s actions, but give the best intention for our own. Like, oh, he’s such a jerk. Look. Look what he’s doing right now.
See why he’s doing that? I can’t believe it. I know. I was trying to be nice, even though it might not have sounded like it, but he’s intentionally trying to provoke me. He’s a jerk, but I was trying to be nice.
And we see this even at our youngest ages and families. The sibling example mom, she keeps looking at me like that.
Of course she’s looking at you like that, because she’s awful and you’re good, and mom needs to punish her, and we just take that into a more adult form. My heart is right, theirs is wrong. Paul, he gives a stern warning for us in Romans two about this. He says, you suppose a man, that you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
And Jesus reminds us clearly as well, those forgiven much, love much. The records of our sins that stood against us has been mailed to the cross. Colossians, chapter two, beginning verse 13. Paul says, and you who were dead in your trespasses, god made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with all of its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
That’s what the Lord has done for us. Or again. Two corinthians five. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. That’s why we call it good news.
This is what Jesus has done for us. He has taken our debt and nailed it to the cross. He’s not counting those things against us. Now. Sometimes our own irritableness has just become a bad habit.
Just keep doing that over time, and it becomes just a quick response. We can actually start looking them for reasons to be offended, but we were offensive to God. Our sins have stunk to the highest of heavens, and God’s response to that was to get His Son as an atonement for our sins, to reckon, to count Christ righteousness as ours. But that question comes and, well, how do I forget the wrongs done to me by others? I just can’t make myself forget.
When it comes to the smaller stuff, you actually can. You can choose to just let it go. And the more this becomes ingrained, not only does it become easier with time, it also tends to not get lodged in our memory. It rolls off these smaller things because you’re like, I’m a jerk too, and it doesn’t have to stick in there. But of course, someone say, well, what about the bigger things?
And there are bigger things, to be sure. And you likely are not going to forget those decided glory, but because of the love of Christ ruling your heart, you are directed away from it as a point of resentment. That’s the difference. Some egregious things that happened are not going to be easily forgotten. But the Holy Spirit redirects us from resentment.
Old wounds can scar over. The mark is still there, but it can heal and fade with time. And it does so as you release the debt of others, because your debt to God has been fully paid, nailed to the cross.
Now, do you know that some try and use this very idea of letting go as a means of not repenting? We need to be aware of that. They keep doing the same terrible thing to us over and over. And then they remind you that, hey, if I said I was sorry, you can’t ever bring this up again. That’s not real repentance.
And a person who has done the wrong has no right to demand forgiveness. You can’t wrong somebody and they go, the Bible says you have to forgive me. Repentant people don’t sound like that. Repentant people sound like, I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done to you, period, will stop, nothing more. And then you leave the forgiveness part between that person you wronged and the Lord.
That’s where that gets left. You own what you’ve done and you leave the forgiveness part to them and the Lord. It’s not something we demand, and when we do, we misuse that. It’s not for the love of the other person. So a slow fuse, a short memory of wrongs are cultivated by us as we keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
We follow a Savior who was the only truly innocent one, who cried out father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do. He didn’t say, Father, forgive them, except for those liberal deluded sadducees and those conservative selfrighteous pharisees, let them burn in hell. But the ones I like, forgive them.
The Father nailed their sins to the cross too. And I know I can say dumb and hurtful things and my intentions can stink. And you too.
We know this about one another and Jesus is not holding that against us, nor can we then hold that against others. I really appreciate Ecclesiastes Seven as a very helpful reminder. There in Ecclesiastes Seven, verse 21 do not take to heart all the things that people say unless you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.
It’s reminding us to develop a deaf ear to some things where you choose not to hear what you heard because you’ve said the same kind of awful things too. And sometimes we just do that. And rather than be offended and call it out, you’re just like, yeah, I do that too, and let it go and don’t hold on to it. Learning to create ourselves with a deaf ear in the right way and a forgetful memory in the right way is the work of the Spirit.
Think of Jesus when he looked at Peter, when Peter denied him three times, and he looked and he caught Peter’s eye, and Peter knew he blew it, left weeping bitterly. And the next time we see Peter being looked at by Jesus, jesus is reinstating him. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. And even after that, Peter still blew it.
We see that and Peter’s one writing in one peter, he tells us, have brotherly love and a tender heart and a humble mind. Don’t repay evil for evil, reviling for reviling, but bless for you were called to blessing. We’re called to bless. Peter knew that personally, and we know that. So if you’re hearing this as a burden, it’s like, oh, my goodness, this is just crushing me.
Allow it to crush you in such a way as to bring the life of Christ to a heart that needs to be turned around. There’s a love that fuels new life, a longing to be like Christ. It says, I have been captured by the love and the joy of the Lord himself. And he has freed me to love and extend that joy in life to other people. That’s the motivation.
What God has done for you changes you to be able to now do for others, because that’s an amazing picture of the love of God. And when we see that, we rightly see it as beautiful at times even to weep, to allow that love of Christ who has nailed your sins to the cross to overcome you in such a way that when you see the wrongs of others, you’re like, those are just trinkets compared to what I’ve done. And I can release them. I can choose to love them, to not remember everything wrong done, to not be irritable and angry, but to be a giver of life and joy because of the good news of Jesus, who has set me free from the power of sin and death. That is a message that our hearts long to know and to hear in the world out there needs to see how hungry we are for this type of food.
The sweet Savor of Christ, the aroma of life given to us in his love so that we then can turn and love others in the same way. And all of this through his great glory and grace. Pray with me, Father. We are easily angered. We do keep records of wrong.
And, Father, we confess it as sin. And we ask, Father, not only that you would forgive us, but, Lord, that through your Spirit that he would continue to change us, to mold us, to shape us, Father that you would rule our hearts by your love. That it would indeed would be a bridal to direct us to direct us, Father to love our neighbor as Christ has loved us, to forgive as we have been forgiven. And, Lord, we do pray where we have entrenched patterns of bitterness, resentment, irritability, we pray, Father, that you would root it out, Father, that you would ruthlessly deal with our hearts so that the love of Christ would be seen in evidence and manifest us in evergrowing and wonderful manners. We pray this all in his mighty name.