“It does not rejoice with wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” – 1 Corinthians 13:6 (ESV)
If you’re like me, when you read through this verse, you’re lost. So far, the characteristics of love that we’ve been looking at have been pretty self-explanatory. Now I’m not saying that you haven’t learned anything from our articles, because I’m pretty sure that you have, but as a general rule, that you had a good idea of what the Bible meant when it said, “Love is patient and kind;” or “Love does not envy or boast”. This characteristic of love, however, is a little different, because it’s not as clear/doesn’t make as much sense to us at first glance as the others do. It is nonetheless just as important as any of the other characteristics of love and thus, we need to make an effort to understand it and apply it to our lives, just as we would with any of the other characteristics.
So let’s get started by looking at the first part of this verse. “It does not rejoice with wrongdoing,”. I think there are a couple of different ways to draw application from this verse, but one in particular stuck out to me when I was reading through commentaries. In summary, the way that I’m interpreting the first part of this verse for the purpose of this post is this: Godly love is not happy when sin is committed by anyone, whether that person be my enemy or my friend. Many of you are probably thinking something along the lines of, “But Travis, I’m a Christian. Why would I ever be happy when someone sinned?” Well, let me lay out a hypothetical situation for you. You’re a freshman in High School. You come home with a black eye roughly three times a week, thanks to a group of seniors that bully you for sport. If those seniors were to be found guilty of producing and distributing drugs, what would be your reaction? Would you grieve for their wrongdoing/unrighteousness/sin, or would your initial reaction be joy? I mean, be honest with yourself. You would probably be happy, correct?
Now that we’ve laid down a definition for the first half of this verse, let’s try and dig into the second half. “but rejoices with the truth.” I think the first thing that we need to take note of from this section of the verse is the word but. Often when this word is used, it signals the contrast of two different thoughts. Not black, but blue. Not a piano, but a guitar. You get the point. I think this verse is doing something similar. We’re no longer focusing on our attitude (not rejoicing) when someone does evil (wrongdoing), but focusing on our attitude (rejoicing) when someone someone does good (the truth). This time, you’re probably like, “Well, you may have been right last time, Travis, but why would I be unhappy when good is being done?” At first, it seems that there’s no reason why this shouldn’t/isn’t the case in all of lives. But let’s think about this for a minute. What about… when President Obama (or Zuma for the South Africans reading this post) does something good? I know that I’m tempted to purposefully ignore or even look down upon this act of good because it was Barack Obama that did it, and I don’t generally agree with his politics. And when I fall to this temptation, I’m not displaying godly love. I’d like us to take a look at what Paul says in Philippians 1:14-18.
“And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (NIV)
What a cool passage! The message that Paul is trying to get across in these verses is this: There are those who preach the gospel because they love Christ and have a desire to see people live for him, but there are also those that share the gospel for less noble reasons. But in the end does it really matter? As long as the good news of Christ is being shared, then who cares? I feel like this principle applies to good works/truth as well. There will be those who do good works because they’re in love with Christ, but there will also be people that do good works because it is of benefit to them. We have no reason not to rejoice when those good works are being done, regardless of what the character of the person doing them is.
So hopefully you have a much better understanding of what this characteristic of love is and looks like. Just like all the other characteristics we’ve looked at so far, this is not easy to apply to our lives. It’s so easy for us to be happy (whether we show it or not) when those that oppose us fall. It’s so easy for us to disregard good works that are being done because we don’t like the person doing them. But neither is acceptable, nor right. I hope that you’ve been as challenged reading this post as I was writing it and will strive to apply what you’ve read.