Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, evil, or injustice, but rejoices with the truth….I was overjoyed to find some of you walking in the truth, just as the Father has commanded us….Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (1 Cor 13:6; 2 John 4; Rom 12:9)
Love was so important to Jesus that shortly before His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion, He told His disciples, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples, when they see the love you have for each other.”1 That’s Christ’s tallest order for us! Will we obey Him? Trusting the Lord and loving others is the most practical thing we can do in the COVID-19 crisis.
The Apostle John was known as Christ’s Beloved Disciple and maybe he was Jesus’ best friend on earth. The good news is that all Christ’s followers have a close relationship with Jesus because we are spiritually connected to Him and He is to us. John wrote lots about love in his first letter and five times he urged us to “love one another.”2 John is echoing Jesus, so we must listen.
1 Corinthians Chapter 13 gives us Fourteen Essential Factors in Love that we are studying. I number them for ease of discussion. There is overlap and repetition in my comments since I have used sections at different times and places with different people.
10. Love Takes No Pleasure in Evil, but Rejoices in the Truth.
Paul is describing Christlike love using the Greek word agape. It is a godly, altruistic, self-denying love, higher than brotherly love, or romantic and sexual attraction. C. S. Lewis explains agape in his book The Four Loves as the highest level of love known to humanity. It is selfless, passionately committed to the well-being of others, imitating Jesus’ sacrificing love. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses many church problems and most bad behavior was caused by the believers’ failure to practice Christ-like love. The same is true in our time.
It Is Wrong to Delight in Wrong
Paul had spent a year and a half planting and nurturing the Corinthian church. Now he lovingly, but firmly deals with their problems. The Roman Empire was morally bankrupt, and the city of Corinth was over the top with its excessive immorality. Corinth was the sin city, the “Las Vegas,” of the Empire. Even after they were born again by the Holy Spirit, some believers brought societal and cultural baggage into the church. That happens now also in the USA.
God says in Proverbs: “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These people turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong.”3 These bad behaviors crept into the Corinthian church, in spite of the Lord’s clear commands. The Apostle John wrote: “This is the message we have heard from Christ and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”4
Christ came, lived, died, rose, and gave us new birth not just to forgive us and then let us continue in badness. Jesus purifies us, sanctifies us, and changes us from inside out. And He says, “Leave your life of sin.” So it is obvious that Jesus-like love cannot rejoice at wrongdoing, evil, or injustice in ourselves or others. Now I’ll move on to another aspect of Jesus-like love.
It Is Unloving and Wrong to Enjoy Bad Things Happening to Others
The Corinthian church was divided into factions following Apollos, Peter, Paul, and others in an unhealthy way and the factions probably treated each other badly. There were lawsuits among them and maybe members were picking sides and rooting for their friends to drive competitors out of business. Some church members were living in immoral romantic relationships and other members condoned it. When the Corinthian church celebrated the Lord’s Supper, they also had a fellowship meal. Wealthier members flaunted their food and drink and got drunk, while the poor members remained hungry.5 They were not living like Jesus, whatever they claimed to believe about Him. Whenever we enjoy injustice or sinful choices ourselves or like watching others do these things, we are not loving God our Lord and Savior and not loving people who are made in God’s image.
In the Bible book of Obadiah, the Lord condemns the Edomites for gloating over Israel’s misfortune, rejoicing in their destruction, and delighting in their time of trouble.6 Psychologists label this with the German word schadenfreude, literally meaning “harm-joy.” It is the feeling of pleasure, happiness, or self-satisfaction that comes from hearing about or seeing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of other people.7 It is the opposite of Christ-like love, sympathy, empathy, and kindness. Gloating over other people’s pain comes from unhealthy rivalry and competition, feeling better about ourselves when others are brought low. Christ’s enemies behaved this way when they derided Him on the cross. Jesus’ followers cannot live like that.
Love Rejoices with the Truth
Remember our key verse: 1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” In this context, truth means all that is the opposite of evil, wrong, or injustice. It reminds us of Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Jesus is God our Supreme Lover. He is the Word of God who became flesh and made His dwelling among us. He is the glorious one and only Son of God, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. God came down in Christ to show us concretely that He is the God who is love and how true love behaves toward others.
Jesus does not delight in evil. He is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sin.8 Christ did not gloat over the mess we were in. He took pity upon us, had compassion, and rescued us from guilt and darkness and the grave! Jesus remembered us in our low estate and took action to save us because His love endures forever.9
Conclusion: Beloved, how have you experienced God’s love in Christ? And through His people? What can you do to show Jesus’ compassionate ways to others today? Because the Lord loves us, we can and must love others right now, right here in our lost and dying world.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 John 13:34-35 MSG. 2 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11-12. 3 Proverbs 2:12-15. 4 1 John 1:5-7. 5 1 Cor 1:10-17; 5:1-13; 6:1-11; 11:17-22. 6 Obadiah 12. 7 Tiffany Watt Smith, “Not Just a German Word: A Brief History of Schadenfreude (November 21, 2018). 8 Heb 7:26. 9 Psalm 136:23.