Love Like God Loves
Series: Love Is
So the big idea today: “Love Like God Loves.” How? First, don’t rejoice in sin. And second, rejoice in the truth. We’ll look at each part of the verse in turn.”
1 Corinthians 13
Jonathan Edwards – Charity and It’s Fruits
Phil Ryken – Loving as Jesus Loves
Ray Ortlund – The Gospel
David Garland – Baker commentary on 1 Corinthians
Thistleton – New International Greek Commentary on 1 Corinthians
Good morning! My name is Tim and I’m one of your pastors. How many of you are Eagles fans? Any Eagles fans here, when you raise your kids, your lifelong dream for them is to become Cowboys fans? More like worst nightmare right?! Those of us who are parents – we want our kids to share our affections don’t we – you hate the Cowboys, you want your kids to hate them. One of our pastors realized he may have taken this a notch too far when his daughter started crying and asked him if Mr JR on our staff was going to hell because he liked bad guys like the Cowboys!
Let’s take that a bit deeper though – when my kids are yelling at each other, treating each other selfishly, fighting tooth and nail, it really bugs me – I want you to love your sister, deeply, like I love her. See loving her is actually good for you – look at her – I love her deeply, don’t you love her too? Share my love and affection for her. Love her like I love her.
In our section of the ‘love chapter’ today, Paul is saying to the Corinthians – “I’ve told you several things love isn’t… it doesn’t envy, or boast, it isn’t arrogant or rude, it doesn’t insist on its own way, it’s not irritable or resentful” – I could go on, but let me just sum this up for you. “it [love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” The heart of what God is saying through our passage today “Love like I love (and hate the things I hate).” And let me tell you something about love that you really need to know — “rejoicing is at the heart of love”. What you rejoice in, tells everything about how you love. Holy love hates everything that is wrong, and loves everything that is true.”
So the big idea today: “Love Like God Loves.” How? First, don’t rejoice in sin. And second, rejoice in the truth. We’ll look at each part of the verse in turn.”
Don’t Rejoice at Sin
The problem most of us will have with this passage isn’t “why shouldn’t I rejoice at wrongdoing”? That’s probably pretty obvious to you. It’s not good to rejoice in things that are bad. You may not think you do, that’s ok – we’re going to unpack this and I think see that all of us, in some way shape or form are guilty of rejoicing in wrongdoing. But let’s define a couple terms so we’re all on the same page.
First, “Wrongdoing” is word that in our language means “dishonest or illegal behavior.” But it’s even more expansive in the original language, encompassing all forms of injustice, unethical behavior, wronging of others, or sin in general. The apostle John uses this same word in 1 John 5:17 and says: “all wrongdoing is sin.” In context, Paul is summarizing all the negative things Paul has described previously “envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, pride, irritableness, resentfulness,” and he’s expanding the list to include “and all the rest”. So in context, wrongdoing is “any evil or offensive behavior.”
This is to keep us from saying something like “well hey, Paul said love doesn’t envy, but he NEVER said love doesn’t steal from people so….”
“Wrongdoers” love what they do, over loving what is right. The liar for instance, loves saving face over keeping integrity. The one who sins sexually loves the act that brings physical pleasure over being pure in heart. Wrongdoers tend to celebrate sin itself. To rejoice is to celebrate, to take pleasure in. When our hearts feel joy or delight, we are rejoicing.
One more thing it’s critical to define here is what it means to “rejoice at” something. Notice here is that it says “love does not rejoice AT wrongdoing” – the “AT” there puts the wrongdoing outside of ourselves – so this doesn’t mean it’s OK to rejoice in wrongdoing in your own hearts – but rather that Paul’s focus is “when you see sin out there or in one another, or in the church, or in society, don’t take pleasure in that, don’t delight in that in any way” – that’s the focus here.
Do any of you think you do this? I’ll admit, I tend to gloss over this and give myself a pass. Nah, I don’t rejoice when I see sin in other people, or in the church, or in society. I’m good. To sharpen our senses though, I’d like to humbly suggest there are at least six ways you and I do this.
First, we dull our senses to sins in our social groups because it gives us license to sin. The church in Corinth that Paul is writing to had gotten used to quite a bit of sinful behavior. They normalized sexual sin, oppressing people of lower socio-economic classes, in-fighting and hyper competitive behavior. My guess is that none of that even felt like sinning to them. In your case, what sins are you dull to because they’ve been normalized in your social groups? Could it be in your context, that excessive drinking, profanity or coarse joking, gossip, or else self-righteousness, judgmentalism, or even forms of bigotry and hatred have become normalized to the point that your senses are dulled to them?
As a kid, you ever have the experience of watching something on TV and you’re like “this is totally appropriate” and then your dad or mom walks in and you’re like immediately embarrassed? We’re all like this. What sins are “acceptable” to love in your context?
Second, we don’t lovingly confront sin in our brothers and sisters. In Corinth, they let a guy in an incestuous relationship go unconfronted, and in fact Paul says they “approved of him.” Indifference to sin in others is itself a terrible sin. God is not indifferent to sin, but hates it. Paul isn’t saying “don’t rejoice at wrongdoing, be indifferent to it.” Holy love comes with the counterweight of holy anger toward sin. As members of the same church, are you and I willing to lovingly confront sin in one another for the sake of repentance and restoration? I have regrets of my own in this area. I have stood by and watched while a brother and sister I care deeply about had their marriage fall apart due to alcohol addiction. I’ve erred on the side of indifference enough times that I’ve seen the damage caused. You only have to watch a couple people’s lives be destroyed by sin to want to err on the side of saying something in the future.
Brothers and sisters, is your heart stirred to action when you see a brother or sister caught in sin? In Galatians 6:1a, Paul tells the church what to do here: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Would you lovingly confront me any time you see sin in my heart? And have the same posture toward one another?
Third, we feel a sense of superiority when others fall. In Corinth, they were in a dual-party system. There was the “Paul” party and the “Apollos” party. Paul said they needed to be more concerned with the “God” party. Question for you – when someone falls to sin, and they represent the “other” party, do you feel a slight sense of smug happiness about it? Or do you grieve when anyone falls to sin? Don’t we all sometimes feel slightly superior when someone is shown to be “the kind of person you always suspected they were?”
Fourth, we aren’t grieved by evils in society. We tend to care only about evil that impacts us directly. For instance, if we care about the evils of rioting and attacking police because those impact us, but not the evils of police brutality or racially motivated violence. But can we lift our eyes and see evils at the border, or to the unborn, the evils of racism and bigotry, wars, sex trafficking, and all forms of boasting, injustice, lying, manipulating, and profaning around the world. It’s overwhelming, but are we grieved as God is grieved by these sins?
Fifth, we excuse evil in our particular party or tribe. We tend to “what about” the sin in our camp – at least we’re not as bad as THEY are.
Sixth, we let culture define sin. The church in Corinth looked just a little too similar to the culture at large. The dominant sin patterns in the church reflected the dominant sin patterns of the culture. It’s easy to come out against sin that culture agrees is sin isn’t it? But what about sin the culture rejoices in? Maybe we find it easy to condemn sins the culture is comfortable condemning like sex trafficking or abuse, but we harbor the up-stream sins of sexual immorality and pornography. Somehow they just seem less “sinful” to us. Or we condemn outright bigotry and racism willingly, but harbor up-stream sins of prejudice or indifference.
WHY is it so important that our hearts “rejoice not” in these wrongs? Why should we as the church seek to systematically root out all loving of sin, at any level? We have to understand what God says about sin. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul tells the church that God’s wrath is against all wrongdoing, and that he has given humanity OVER to our sin, to disastrous consequences. Romans 1:28-32 says this is the result:
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
This is God shouting from the rooftops to us about the devastation of sin. Sin is utterly offensive to God. It calls down the wrath of God. Sin never gives what it promises. It lies, then turns around and accuses. Sin destroys lives, families, childhoods, careers, nations and souls. Sin rots our hearts and turns us away from everyone we love. Sin is at the root of all sorrow and death and suffering and pain in the world.
This is God holding up a bright neon sign saying sin leads this way – to every sort of pain and death.
When we love wrongdoing, we’re flipping the sign. No no, God says that leads to death, but I’m telling you, that doesn’t lead to death. No I realize God says THAT is going to cause sorrow and devastation in your life, but it’s not that bad – certainly not worth me speaking up to you about.
Let’s apply this: How does your heart respond when you see sin in your brothers, sisters, church or out there in culture?
Just prior to his death, Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem where instead of prayer, and the welcoming of outsiders, he saw money changers taking advantage of them, keeping them from worship. In response to the injustice and sin, Jesus didn’t write a blog article, or make a social post – he fashioned a whip and he drove out the money lenders.
Scott Sauls pointed out in our Faith & Politics event this past weekend that many societal advances have come in part because of righteous anger. It’s right to look at racial injustice and get angry. It’s right to look at injustice to the unborn and get angry. May sin and its effects never cause us to rejoice, but rather rouse the hearts and spirits of God’s people, who respond with fierce, redemptive action.
Brothers and sisters, when we love what God loves, we will be table flippers when it comes to sin, and not sign flippers. Amen? Don’t Rejoice at Sin. And second….
Rejoice in the Truth
Like we did before, let’s make sure we define our terms. What does the word “truth” mean biblically? First, truth is something objective. Truth, according to Paul, is something you can either rejoice in, or not rejoice in. Therefore it has to be something outside of ourselves. Just because you or I rejoice in something, doesn’t make it true.
Second, truth is defined by God. Everything that is in accord with his character is true, and all else is falsehood. It is the summation of all of his goodness and rightness. In this context, it can be thought of as personal excellence or right living. Living in such a way that is free of all the characteristics of the devil (pretense, falsehood, flattery, deceit, hypocrisy) and rather displays all the right and good qualities of God’s character. In other words, it is believing and living in step with God.
In the Bible truth is not only something we believe, but also something we live in accordance with. Jesus is “full of” truth according to the Apostle John. We can worship in spirit and in truth according to Jesus. We are sanctified, or set apart into the truth. In fact, earlier when we read Romans chapter 1, the truth is the exact thing that Paul says all of humanity “exchanged” for lies and sin. We read here, it’s something we can rejoice in.
We rejoice in the truth when we love everything about God. When we no longer pick and choose – oh I like that he says THAT, but I don’t like that he says THAT. Or I like that we’re commanded to do THIS, but I don’t so much like THAT. No Paul says He LOVE this, love EVERYTHING about God – his heart and his hands, his character and his commands, his love and his demands. All things about God are true, and our hearts were made to revel in them.
Someone I knew and loved used to joke around about this verse. It was like a life motto of his. “Love rejoices in the truth” he’d say – remember this when you’re married and she asks “honey, how do I look in this dress” – and you say “love rejoices in the truth!” We would laugh. But this is a counterfeit way of reading this. Some people use this verse “love rejoices in the truth!” to mean “I tell it like it is!” “I tell it like it is.” Is that always 100% in accordance with what is true about God?
Love doesn’t just “tell it like it is” – love “enjoys what he enjoys” and “lives like he lived.” Rejoicing in the truth means loving everything about God. It means when we see godly character in others, when we see virtue in society, we delight in that.
See, we become what we delight in. You want all the best virtues, all the deepest expressions of love? Point your heart to the Lord and find them in his character. All our best virtues are expressions of his love, and our worse – a lack of love. Tim Keller writes “Courage is loving your neighbor’s well-being more than your own safety. Honesty is loving your neighbor’s interests more than your own, even when the truth will put you at a disadvantage. Look at injustice. You may say you believe in social equality and justice and think that you do, but if you make business decisions that exploit others, it is because at the heart level you love your own prosperity more than your neighbor’s. In short, what you love most at the moment is what controls your action at that moment.”
Apply: What are you rejoicing in?
We harm ourselves and others when we love anything more than God. If I love my three little girls more than I love God, I will rest too much of my hope and joy on them. I’ll need them to succeed and be happy, and to love me in return. I’ll either crush them with over-expectation or I’ll drive them away. No one and nothing but God can live up to being the ultimate focal point of my rejoicing. I don’t need to love other things or people less, I need my heart to rejoice most in God. And rejoicing in the truth, God will just enlarge my heart and make room for all the other loves to fall into rightful order. There’s plenty of room for you to (properly) love your work and (properly) love your family and to properly love your brothers and sisters in the church when you rejoice in the truth. But when we lose sight of God, everything starts to become disordered, and we become partners with all sorts of destruction.
As it turns out, after my loved one passed away, the one who used to always say “love rejoices with the truth!” we found out he had been carrying on essentially a life-long affair behind his wife’s back. Boy I’ll tell you, that motto really took on a new meaning. Love rejoices with the truth. We say “I’m just keeping it real.” I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure anyone would think I was “keeping it real” if they saw all the hidden corners of my life. How about you?
Aren’t we all so deeply broken? Here’s part of the truth about me. I have fear. I fear that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me. I have shame – at times it’s hard for me to face who I really am. I have regret. At times, it feels like I can’t get away from who I have been in the past. I have disappointment – no matter how hard I try to rejoice in the truth and stop rejoicing in things that are wrong, it can just seem so exhausting and unattainable. When I’m confronted with the glory and the sheer power and moral perfection of God.. I’m brought to the end of myself… I need you Lord.. I need you Lord. I need you Lord.
And he says: that’s true, but that’s not the whole truth. Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. He says “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6” Ok so that’s helpful – when I’m feeling broken and like I can’t see the truth through all the wrongdoing, I can look to a person – to Jesus and find it again.
Can your heart see Jesus today? Can you see the cross and him hanging there? Moral perfection judged unjustly. Beauty marred by lashes. Immense power mocked by a crown of thorns. In the cross of Jesus we see the righteous anger of God toward sin, coming down on his beloved Son. What do we make of this?
“… God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
The truth is God loves you, and God loves me. Jesus knows you, and loves you. He came to save all who would put their hope in him. Isn’t that what we all long for? For the truth about us to be fully known – and to be deeply and profoundly loved?
This is truth worth rejoicing in. We are fully known, even in our sin, and yet deeply and profoundly loved by God. When we’re gripped by this and rejoice in it, we are loving the truth. Turn your heart to Jesus, and you will learn over time how to speak the truth, in love. How to act in righteous anger toward sin, and how to treat your brothers and sisters with holy love. It starts with what we rejoice in.
The Bible says, turn your heart to Jesus, place your faith and trust in him, and God will fill you with the Spirit of Truth. His Holy Spirit is sent to dwell inside anyone who trusts in Jesus, and will fill your hearts with truth and love such that it overflows to one another. The Father loves his Son Jesus. You can love what he loves when you fix your eyes on Jesus. In so doing you and I learn to hate sin, and love the truth. Won’t you choose you rejoice in him today?