by Spiros ZodhiatesThe Nature of Love-Part 4
The Nature of Love-Part 4
Editor's note: Dr. Zodhiates continues to elaborate on the Apostle Paul's powerful description of love as the supreme Christian evidence.
"[Love] rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).
Christian love needs not so much to be defended from its enemies as from its friends. Some people seem to think that love should always be soft and yielding. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 in order to guard the character and define the nature of Christian love. It is the only original panegyric in all literature of love's austerities and severities.
Among these severities of love is that it makes a clear distinction between what we should and should not rejoice in. Take an indulgent mother's love, for instance. It is full of excuses, explanations, and apologies. It slurs over defects, planes down excrescences, and glosses over faults and failings. Such love, through sentimental coddling and lack of discipline, can ruin a child. We may feel that it is wonderful to be loved in that way. But sometimes we have the uncomfortable reflection that if our mothers had known us better they might have loved us less.
Does the discovery of the truth about a person kill love? Is the love you enjoy or give based on deficient knowledge of the truth? Would truth destroy the romance, shatter the idol? You hear it said, "There is nothing in the world that destroys love like truth." Are we, then, to be hoodwinked into happiness and cheated into bliss? If truth were to come in at the window, would love go out at the door?
To all this, Paul's reply is perfectly plain. Love that can be killed by the truth is not the love of God in our hearts. Love may be tortured and torn and wounded and bruised and well-nigh frenzied by truth, but love born of God will love on through all extremities. It does this because if the truth includes the worst, it also includes the best; if it includes the lowest, it also includes the highest. Love that is worthy of the name can endure the worst because it has its roots in the best. In this the Christian must imitate his Savior, who loves us not because of our faults but in spite of them, and who while we were yet sinners gave Himself for us.
Love that is blind to the truth almost inevitably overvalues and over-praises the life and achievements of friends or family members. Human love has a habit of running away with judgment. In the mind of society the idea has become so firmly imbedded that love is blind to the truth, that it cannot rejoice in it.
In solving this dilemma, some people say. "Is it not better to have love than truth?" This is to imply that we cannot have both. Paul wants to redeem love from such misconceptions. False love has been construed as kind, and true love as cruel, when in fact the opposite is true. Which is kinder in the long run, to shut one's eyes to the sin that is ruining a life or to admit it is there and pray and work for its removal? Does a parent truly love his child if he never corrects his faults and lets him grow up to be a selfish and obnoxious adult? The Christian is to love with the love that can bear to know the truth and not be discouraged or abate its warmth and vigor.
"Your child will walk again," said a wise physician to a polio victim's parents, "if you keep up a regular course of exercise that I will prescribe for him, and if you do not wait on him more than necessary, but insist that he try to help himself." At first the exercises were painful, and the child cried out. But though the parents' hearts were full of pity, their concern for his future would not let them give in. They continued hour after hour, day after day, month after month, kindly but firmly encouraging their little boy to exercise his partly paralyzed legs, and to follow as nearly as possible the routine of a normal child. Later, as a young man, this once crippled youngster walked without the trace of a limp. Is not this an illustration of the way that God loves us, and the way that we are to love and help others?
© From To Love Is to Live, an exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 13, 1967, revised 1998.
Available from AMG Publishers