Monday, October 10, 2011

Love Covers or Bears all Things

TEXT : 1 Corinthians 13:4-7   
TITLE:  The Properties of Love  #6 :  Love  bears all things   
Date :  09  /10 /2011

We now consider the twelfth   facet  or aspect of  what this agape love is like .  This morning,  due to time constraintsI will not have time  to go beyond this  property  of love .

a.      Exegesis : "  Love  bears  all things (ESV / KJV) ;   " always    protects..."  (NIV)

It seems to   be somewhat difficult  at face value to reconcile these two different  translations, and  therefore  suggest, that we should look firstly l at the verb  which is    translated  either as  "bears  or “ protects".
There are two aspects  attached to the Greek word "stego".  The  first  of these has the basic idea of "covering "  i.e. "love covers  for another" , in the sense of concealing or excusing the   faults of others, instead of gladly disclosing them.  That would   support the translation of the NIV .
Secondly  , this word can also mean "to bear / forebear / suffer "  - to bear in  silence, all annoyances and troubles" ( Charles Hodge), hence supporting the  ESV/KJV.

It is clear  that we have here two different nuances, but both aspects   contribute to our further understanding of the nature of love.  The synthesis (amalgamation of these two thoughts) is   perfectly described in 1 Peter 4:8 :  "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude   of sins."
This verse combines both the sense of bearing with the  sins  of   another, and also joining to it the aspect of covering or protecting.

A practical example: An unmarried  daughter tells her  Christian  parents that   she is pregnant. The parents are understandably upset,  and  yet because she is their daughter, and  because they love her, they will  bear with her failing and will accept her and her   child , whilst at the same time they will also   cover her  , by protecting her   from  wagging tongues and external attacks  .  Rather, than propagating the shamefulness of the event, they   bear with her and cover  her.
It’s a heavy burden for the  parents , but their love for the daughter is greater  than  the burden  .   
This  glad burden of love  is  well  illustrated in the following story :
Many years ago  a  pastor in Scotland, walked  down one  of the narrow, cobbled streets of Edinburgh,  and saw a  very young girl carrying  a badly crippled child on her back. He stopped her, and said to   her: " My, that's a heavy burden you've got there, lassie." The girl    looked up at him  and said: “ Sir, this is not  a burden.  This is my brother ! “    Love bears all things !
How different  this biblical love  is compared to the world !  When someone fails morally  in  our world   we find , ironically  that it  is first  reported  in the secular press – in the tabloids  .  The magazines   thrive on gossip … who has had  an extra marital affair  ; who got drunk  or stoned  ; who beat his wife …. the more sordid the  moral lapse the better  the  story sells – and secular people love it  !  It is proven by the fact that  these magazines really sell .
Depravity is always looking to find  a  skeleton in somebody else's  cupboard  ! 
Christian  Love covers , but depravity  exposes .

We  remember  that  we are born with depraved hearts . We see it in our children . The moment one kid  does something  wrong , the other kids  who have seen  the wrong are eager to tell their parents,   or someone else : “  Do you know what ….. has done ?”   The Corinthians  were also  doing  that to each other . In Chapter 6  some in the church  were  taking each other to court . They were publicly exposing one another in the secular courts , and  Paul  is shocked  at such  behaviour ( 6: 4-7) .  They should have dealt discretely  with  the matter . Love covers !  Love bears!   Love covers a multitude of sins ( 1 Peter 4:8)  Hatred stirs up strife , but love covers all offenses” .  ( Prov 10:12)

b.      A warning against abusing this text:

Love will warn, yes, and love will exhort and love will rebuke and love will discipline but love will cover, not expose.  This is  a biblical  characteristic of love. It is naïve  to suppose  that  a Christian  must shut  their  eyes  when they  see    a crime committed; it does not say that we must turn a blind eye to   the wrongdoing and injustices which we frequently encounter in our   society. This does not mean that sin must be glossed over in the  church. We must  not be passive in  the face of evil!  We have already established this principle  in the previous verse ( v.6)  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing , but rejoices with the truth .”  Last week we saw that the evils perpetrated in the Corinthian church were   named , addressed and judged by Paul . It is the duty of   pastors/elders to teach and rebuke certain individuals, when they  disturb the peace of the body. It is a serious thing for the shepherds  of  the  church to allow sinful practices to persist without  addressing  these issues.  However , the goal of all church discipline is   ultimately redemptive .  The act  of administering  church discipline follows the path  of  ‘ bearing’  and ‘ covering’ . How often have your elders not  had  to bear with   sinning  members  in patience and  even cover the sins  of some – and you have not even known about it ! In very rare cases we have had to made a sin known to  the congregation  , and even then  when  excommunication was required  it was done   in hope   of eventual repentance ( cf 1 Cor 5:5)

c.      The theological  premise  :

We do well to remember  that God  has    loved us in this manner.  Rom 5:8  : "God demonstrates His own Love for us  in this: While we were still sinners ,Christ died for us."  God  has  borne  (and continues to  bear)  our failings , and  He has  covered our sins through the blood of   Christ.
The whole  idea  of   God  dealing with our sin  is  dealt with in the word  “atonement”. The Hebrew word  for atonement is ‘ kippur’  ( Yom kippur –  is the Jewish Day of Atonement) . ‘Kippur’ means covering .  In dealing with our sin , God covered our sin  with  the blood of Jesus .  When something is covered it is no longer seen !   But  He did more than cover our sin . He bore our sin  ( Isa  53:4)  He has borne our shame  - our iniquity  ( Isa 53:6) . He  has taken away  the reason for gossip about us -  for He bore   and covered our shame !
So we  see that biblical  love is never quick to expose or  condemn ;  it  covers sin , and sometimes  it even  carries the burden of it,  and even takes the blame for it; in Christ’s case He even accepted  the punishment that is due to us .

There is a  story told about Oliver Cromwell  ( 1599-1658)  who was at one time  Lord Protector of Great Britain.  He  overthrew the English monarchy for a short while  and turned  England for  a short while into a  Republican commonwealth
The story is told regarding a sentence  which he handed down  a death sentence on a young soldier. The young man’s fiancée pleaded with Cromwell for the young man’s life.  Cromwell stood resolutely : "When they ring the bell to strike the mark for curfew,  you die."  At the appointed time, the  bell ringer  pulled the large rope to ring the bell , but there was no sound, so he pulled again and again, but still no sound.  The executioners were waiting to hear the ringing of the bell so they could carry out the execution, but the bell would not ring . They then discovered that the young man’s fiancée had climbed up inside that bell and wrapped herself around the gong . With each pull of the rope, she was smashed between the metal side of that bell and the gong . With every tug, her  body and ribs were  badly hurt .  When attempts to ring the bell stopped, she came out. She went immediately to the place of the execution.
History tells us that Lord Cromwell looked at her and said something like this, "Take your love, the curfew will not be rung tonight."
That is what happened on the cross . Because of the cross  the bell  that was due to sound for  your  and my execution was not rung !  Jesus  took the punishment .

d.  Our response

Understanding  the  true  nature of the love at bears and covers , and having been warned  that we must not abuse  this  biblical love ; having understood the theological  premise upon which this aspect of love is founded – our bleeding  and ding Christ , we are now ready to formulate our personal response  to this :

Because  what we know now concerning  biblical love  , and because we have seen that Christ  Himself  did bear our sins and cover them , we  now  are called  to respond  appropriately :

  • We are  debtors  to one another: "Let no debt remain   outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another."   ( Rom 13:8).
  • For the sake of righteousness ; for the sake of our Lord Jesus  Christ , we  are called  to  cover,  bear with ,  and  protect others, despite  their great sins  , even against  ourselves  .  We remember that our sins   against God  and against one another  ( if properly understood) are  as gross and as heinous  as those sins  that others  have committed against us . Therefore , in Christ we  will pray for our enemies   : “Father forgive them …”
  • And we will frankly   acknowledge , that such love is  of supernatural origin  ; it is Spirit-produced . It takes a person nothing less than being born again to  do this . ( 2 Peter 1:3ff)

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