Unfortunately, love is often defined in a shallow manner in today’s culture and seen as something that overlooks the need to confront sin. Discipline at all levels is often ignored because holding people accountable is surely not the loving thing to do. God, however, never overlooks sin and wickedness, and since He is love (1 John 4:7–8), it is clear that true love is never afraid to ignore the reality of evil or make it less than what it really is. In today’s passage, Paul helps us apply this idea practically, showing us how to view the evil others do as well as the sin in our own hearts.
In the first place, love does not automatically assume the worst about other people when they wrong us. Love is not “resentful” (1 Cor. 13:5). Translations such as the New King James Version render the Greek for “resentful” as “thinks no evil,” revealing that love does not quickly reach conclusions about the hearts of others. Real love makes us assume that other believers have the best of intentions when they have not repeatedly demonstrated otherwise. If we fail to assume the best of another Christian, we can impute evil motives where they are absent and grow resentful. Love never focuses on the wrongs others do to us, recognizing that God alone knows the hearts of others.
There is an important qualification in all this, however. Love might think the best of others, but it is never naive. Discernment is required, and strong evidence of evil must prompt us to act properly in response (Matt. 10:16). But good discernment is possible only when we strive for impartiality in our evaluation of others.
Should we lack impartiality and assume the worst about others, we will probably violate love’s demand that we never rejoice at wrongdoing (v. 6). Those who hastily impute ill motives to others invite gossip and slander. It comes as no surprise that our flesh loves to hear salacious stories and to retell another’s sin or assumed motivations. Such acts evidence our rejoicing at wrongdoing, not what is good and holy.
In addition to being wary of gossip and slander, let us also be on guard against finding joy in the act of sin itself. The remaining presence of sin means that our hearts can become rebellious at a moment’s notice, and Romans 1:26–32 warns us that the rebellious heart will approve of evil. Should we let down our guard against wickedness, we might grow increasingly attracted to evil and sear our consciences.
Gossip and slander are two of the most overlooked sins in our day. We are quick to condemn sexual immorality, theft, and murder, but at the same time we often relish the opportunity to hear and tell stories about what others have said or done. When others are tempted to gossip in your presence, stand firm in the Spirit and suggest that the topic of conversation be changed to something more edifying.
And that’s the memo.
By R.C. Sproul in an excerpt from Love Like Jesus YouVersion Bible Plan