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 constraints , I 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 I 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)