Love Seeks The Betterment Of Others
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Paul, in his famous treatise of love, provides insight into what can be gleaned from love by highlighting what love is not. Love does not dishonor others. Love believes the very best of people. This is not to say that we don’t take reasonable precautions when interacting and trusting others; love does its best to seek the welfare of everyone:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love is not self-seeking. It is always other-seeking. It seeks the welfare of our neighbors first. The acrostic JOY helps us to remember our place in life:
It is only when we have our priorities straight that we are able to see clearly. Self-seeking people are unable to see the priorities of life correctly, because they are blinded by their desire to fulfill their own needs and desires regardless of the injury to their neighbors. This blinds us to reality. We are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added to us. Provision by God is a natural extension of His love for us when we are providing for the needs of others. God again reveals His character when we engage in it ourselves.
Anger can be a useful tool. It is a proper response to injustice and unrighteousness. But because of the fall of man, we take anger to new levels. We become angry for many reasons, but mostly because we have a perceived unmet need. Our expectation of outcome is not met, and many times in selfishness, this displays itself as anger. Think about the responses that any one of us would have in the following two scenarios:
- You are walking along a crowed street in a strange city you have never visited before. A person you have never met before walks up to you and says, “I hate you! You are mean and don’t care about me!”
- Your spouse (or someone very close to you) walks up to you and says, “I hate you! You are mean and don’t care about me!”
Most people in the first scenario would probably look quizzically at the person and in their inner voice say, “That was weird…” But in the second scenario, there is a higher expectation of behavior from that person due to an established relationship, whether it is an accepted cultural expectation of behavior, or an expectation of behavior due to a cultivated relationship. It would most likely cause emotional distress. What is the difference? Both people said the same thing. It is our expectation of outcome that changes our emotional reaction.
We can choose how we react to situations, as shown in the above scenarios. God chooses to wait to be angry for a while, giving us every opportunity to come to Him and make things right. Even when we were sinners, Christ died upon the cross for us. He had the view of eternity in front of Him always. This assisted Him in being able to make such great sacrifices, and should encourage us to do the same.
Paul goes on to say that love keeps no record of wrongs. God, in His loving character, moves our sin as far from the East is from the West. When we keep track of who has done what to us, we are in effect not allowing the grace of God to penetrate our hearts for what we have been forgiven. We are, in effect, holding these wrongs against the other person. This is not to say that we excuse bad behavior, but that when we choose to forgive someone of their sin, we don’t hold it against them.
In the same way, we should be prudent in how we exercise our judgment. If the 16-year-old likes to party (it’s nearly impossible to control the behavior of children every second of every day), and shows poor judgment in how he/she lives life, it is unwise to provide him/her with the keys to the family car. You still love them, you forgive them, you just don’t permit them to endanger themselves or others by providing access to privileges that require great responsibility to exercise safely.
Love does not delight in evil. To do so would be a public endorsement of it. In the same way, we don’t wear swastikas nor joyfully put our right arms out and publicly say, “Heil Hitler!”, even in jest. We don’t laugh at the misfortune of others in an effort to demean them. God has a revulsion to evil, a true and deep hatred of it. He despises evil. In the same way, as our hearts become attuned to His through the washing of the word, we should have that same hatred of evil. And while we must have compassion on those who engage in evil acts (remember Stephen’s cry to God to forgive the attackers who were stoning him to death), it is perfectly alright to hate the evil acts themselves.
Triumph in Truth
Instead, we should rejoice with the truth. Love recognizes truth and is comfortable in it. Love is a reflection of truth – the very nature of reality as it should be, rather than as it is. Each of us view life through filters. The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It rightly sees things as they are, rather than as we think they are. Only God, who is perfect, it able to truly see everything the way it really is. And when we walk in love, a defining character trait of Almighty God, He reveals Himself to us in a greater way, and helps us to see things from His perspective.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I walking in Godly love?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You constantly display Your love for us each and every day through Your mercy, grace, and compassion. You seek us when we stray, and woo us to You through Your kindness. Help me, Lord God, to walk in Your love. Show me how to love You and others in the same way that You love me. Give me a heart of compassion, mercy, and grace. Help me to rejoice in the truth. Remove the scales from my eyes that I would see clearly. Guide and guard my heart in all things. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.