TEXT : 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
TITLE: The Properties of Love #5 : Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing , but rejoices with the truth
Date : 02 /10 /2011
If you have followed our exposition on the properties of love in verses 4-7, you may perhaps have come to the conclusion that Christian love is far to naïve , far to unconditional and much to uncritical to be taken seriously . You may say to yourself , “how can I love a rapist ? How can I love someone who has murdered my loved one ? How do I love someone who has taken away my freedom, causing me to lie awake every night because this person has traumatized me? How can I love my boss who has just fired me today ? How can I love the person who constantly lies to me , …abuses me ?
Those are real issues, and they deeply challenge our understanding of loving others unconditionally . People like to talk about unconditional love (loving no matter what may come) until that moment arrives when they are at the receiving end of wrongdoing. Then all thoughts of unconditional love are suddenly thrown out of the window , because emotions begin to dominate reason , often even overriding our Christian principles . In OT Israel special rulings had to be made for those who accidentally killed a person ( manslaughter ). Cities of refuge in strategic centers  were laid out on either side of the Jordan river , so that a person who had accidentally killed someone could flee there and be protected there from the emotional outburst and desire for revenge from the grieving relative .
The apostle Paul sets a high standard in verses 4-7 . It is admittedly not easy to be consistent in the application of this kind of love in all that we must experience in this life . However , I remind you right away that the Christian life was never designed to be lived in one’s own strength (2 Peter 1:3ff) . Our life is designed to be lived upon the premise of human weakness and in dependence upon God’s divine grace and power or strength . ( 2 Cor 12 : 9-10) .So today , as we wrestle with this text , I am not going to encourage you to ‘pick yourselves up by your own shoelaces , and tell you to ‘ get your act together’ with respect to some of the deep challenges that you may be facing in your own set of circumstances . I know we can’t - but God in and through us , can !
As we think about the great challenges that face us at times we are dependent upon divine grace . That means you must be ‘ born again ‘ ( justified) ; you must be empowered ( sanctified) by the Holy Spirit to live and respond like a biblical Christian.
And if we look for examples of such powerful love , then we must look firstly to Scripture .
The greatest exhibition of biblical love is always the person and the life of the Lord Jesus Christ . Whenever we ask , ‘ yes, but what does this kind of love look like ?’ , we take look at the Lord Jesus . He , as man in His days upon earth was patient and kind; he was never envious or boastful; He was never arrogant or rude. He did not insist on His own way ( particularly before the cross , He prayed to His Father – not my will , but yours be done ); Jesus was not habitually irritable ( he was irritated by the Pharisees and others at times – but it was righteous and not uncontrolled) ; He was not resentful . At the cross He even prayed that His enemies might be forgiven. Thereafter, we must also consider men like Stephen who forgave his murderers as he was dying . The apostle Paul in reflecting upon his own persecutions in 1 Cor 4:12,13 says: “ When reviled , we bless, when persecuted, we endure; when slandered , we entreat .” There was a greater principle at work . The love of God was poured into their hearts through the Holy Spirit ( Rom 5:5) and made these and others in history . In Foxe’s book of Martyrs I read the story of George Wisheart , a Scotsman who was lecturing at the University of Cambridge in 1543. He was convicted for his evangelical beliefs and asked to recant . He refused and was condemned to die . After Wisheart asked God to forgive those who had condemned him, the hangman kneeled before him “ Sir, please forgive me. I am not guilty of your death.” "Come here", Wisheart replied. Wisheart kissed his cheek and said “ There’s a token of my forgiveness. Do your job.” As Wisheart was hung and burned , the crowd took note that an innocent man had been slaughtered.
Back to the text …
Biblical love is not easy to define . That is why Paul has to use at least 15 verbs to describe its nature . But it is the 6th verse that helps us to see that love is anything but naïve : “(Love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing (lit. unrighteousness - Gr. adikia ) , but rejoices with the truth" ( Gr. aletheia ) .
We learn two things :
(i) biblical love can never agree with unrighteousness
(ii) biblical love is always committed to the truth
1. CHRISTIAN LOVE DOES NOT REJOICE AT UNRIGHTEOUSNESS
This statement must be understood in relation to all that is said before . Love has no pleasure in wrong at all. Whenever biblical love sees envy ( desiring what other people have) and boasting ( making other people envy what you have) , arrogance and rudeness, selfishness , irritability or resentment it cannot be happy with that .
Whatever God considers as an act of unrighteousness cannot be loved by His people. Anything that is wrong in God’s sight should also grieve a Christian heart, not merely because unrighteousness hurts others , but because God’s holy character is assaulted by such unrighteousness . When a woman is raped and when prisoners of war are tortured and traumatized , when a child is physically and emotionally abused by a peer group , or when an older person is disrespected by younger people , then biblical love cannot be happy with that . Not only are people violated , but the image of God in man is assaulted and God is thereby insulted !
This is also true for the sins that are met with from time to time in the church :
We cannot rejoice when there is division ( 1 Cor 1:10ff; Ch 3) , and we cannot rejoice in those who cause division . In fact , the Scripture says “ As for a person who stirs up division , after warning him once and then twice , have nothing more to do with him “ ( Titus 3:10)
The church cannot rejoice when one of their members is involved in sexual immorality such as we find in 1 Cor 5 . The Bible says, “ Purge the evil person from among you .” ( 5:2,5,9,11,13) . The church cannot rejoice when our people go back to their pagan temples and party there like they did before ( Ch 10) . The Bible says : “Flee from idolatry ! “ ( 10:14) . The church cannot rejoice when the ordinances are abused . The Bible says : “ Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” ( 11:27). The church cannot rejoice when the spiritual gifts are abused . The Bible says , that if you practice your spiritual gifts without biblical love , then you are “ an empty gong or a clanging cymbal .” ( 1 Cor 13:1-3) .
In the same way , people who say that they love God and one another cannot laugh at rude jokes ; they do not love movies that promote sexual immorality and promiscuous living ; they cannot love the company of the ungodly more than the fellowship of God’s people .
2. CHRISTIAN LOVE REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH:
Christian love is actively engaged in doing that which is right in God's eyes ; it is actively engaged in a deep commitment to God’s truth , as it is written in God’s Word .
The word "truth" ( Gr. aletheia) can sometimes simply refer to intellectual content i.e. "having a knowledge of the truth" and sometimes it can refer to a manner of walking before God i.e." walking in integrity and faithfulness - walking in the truth (e.g. 2John 4 ; 3John 3) .
The biblical ideal is that our minds and our hands/feet ( our words and deeds) must work together . Can there ever be a separation between the two ? Yes! Unfortunately there can. People may know the truth , and yet they may walk contrary to the truth. We call that ’ lip service’ .
We have an example of correct knowledge (doctrine) and correct practice urged upon Timothy by Paul in 1 Tim 4:16 : "Watch your life and doctrine closely...(NIV)"
In 3Jn 3 the apostle John gives us a lovely testimony concerning a man called Gaius: " For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth , (commitment to sound doctrine) , as indeed you are waking in the truth (practice). I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. “ John truly rejoiced with the truth found living actively in Gaius and in the Christian brothers and sisters to whom he had sent this little letter . It is a pastor’s reward to see the members of the church faithful in holding to truth and living in the truth .
When someone is not walking in the truth, it is a serious matter, and a true loving Christian will be concerned about that and confront such people .
I love the story of C.H. Spurgeon when he was a young boy who at this time lived with his grandfather James Spurgeon who was a pastor . Upon learning that his grandfather was grieved over the behavior of one of the church members, Charles confronted the man. He marched into the tavern and rebuked him.
Thomas Roads, the man later recalled the event:
“To think an old man like me should be took to task…by a bit of a child like that! Well, he points at me, with his finger just so, and says, what doest thou here, Elijah? Sitting with the ungodly; and you a member of a church, and breaking your pastor’s
heart. I’m ashamed of you! I wouldn’t break my pastor’s heart, I’m sure.” And then he walks away…”
Thomas Roads then commented : “ I knew it was all true, and I was guilty; so I put down my pipe, and did not touch my beer, but hurried away to a lonely spot, and cast myself down before the Lord, confessing my sin and begging for forgiveness. 
If a person acts contrary to the truth , there is no way in which a true loving Christian can delight in that. That is why confrontation is sometimes necessary. A pattern for such confrontation is outlined in Matthew 18:15-18. Please note , that the goal of confrontation envisaged here is redemptive. Love is the goal !
A true , loving Christian must help his wayward friend to see when he is wrong - even if his friend doesn't like it; even if his friend feels offended. We do well to remember the counsel, which James gives us in Jas 5:19,20 : 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
By way of a practical guideline, and for the sake of maintaining the balance between love and truth, I have learned this following lesson from John Stott:
Love , without truth is hypocrisy!
Truth, without Love is brutality !
The Christian balance is found in Eph 4:15 "... speaking the truth in love..."
SUMMARY: This text leads us to understand that we cannot abuse the phrase ‘unconditional love ‘ to allow truth to be swallowed by sin . Many people are not able to see how discipline can be linked with love. I trust that you see this now : Speak the truth , but make love your goal. Don’t trivialize love . Don’t make it cheap . Remember above all that God paid a costly price to make it possible for Him to love you .
That is the Truth! Jesus came to die for sinners. Whoever accepts the truth concerning Jesus death will be loved by God, and God in turn will help you to love others , and miracles happen when the love of God rules your heart . Amen!