In First Corinthians 13, St Paul gives a description of love. In the previous chapter, St Paul calls love “the most excellent way.” The Love chapter has been used in wedding services for decades. It is also used as a general description of agape love in the church. Let us explore what Paul says love should not do, specifically as it pertains to the church.
The first verse I will deal with is:
5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 1 Corinthians 13:5
It has been said that “Satan will enter any door.” This is true. There are many situations which are good, bad, or neutral which can be opportunities for human or satanic evil. It is also said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The place where good intentions can often lead to hell or be used as a door for satanic lovelessness is the church.
When Jesus challenged Peter, he told Peter, “Satan has desired to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you that your strength fail not.”
Christians often think they are put on earth to sift each other. The idea of sifting is one that occurs frequently in the Bible. But often it is God who sifts. But humans –especially religious humans– often believe they are supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff in their fellow human beings. We are to consider the beam in our own eye before we consider removing the speck in another person’s eye. However, when Christians are gathered together they often will gang up on another Christian to remove that other Christian’s speck. This is a dangerous unloving thing to do.
Consider these words written in Job:
Will you torment a windblown leaf? Will you chase after dry chaff? Job 13:25
It is not the role of humans to set about sifting each other. Of course, most Christians will not say that they are sifting. But whether they are aware of that or not, that is what they are doing when they feel justified in thinking evil of their fellow Christians, gossiping under the guise of intercession, and seeking to have their “side of the matter” known to others. Christians have often wounded each other and been rude to each other in the name of spirituality. In fact, the cruelty shown to Christians by other Christians is one of the reasons we should be careful about joining certain Christian groups even if the group is made up of good Christians. There is something about the herd mind that resists love yet which –in the name of love– will dishonor or be rude to other people.
Christians behaving badly toward each other often leads to resentment from the one who has been the victim of the attack. But it also leads to resentment from the attacker. The person who has been attacked by the group is angry because she has been hurt. But the person who has done the attack also feels resentment because she feels she has not been listened to. It’s a strange part of human nature that even if one has no right to tell someone else what to do, one will still become upset because people have not listened to one’s suppose wisdom. People like thinking they know what is right for other people. Many times we think we are seeking another’s good when we are really seeking our own: we want to look and seem wise or simply to tell another person what he or she must do.
I remember a situation where a young girl of about thirty decided she had heard from God about something another Christian woman –a woman twenty years older than the young Christian– should do. Not only did the younger woman disregard Biblical warning about how to speak to an elder, when the older woman tried to tell her to stop, the younger woman shouted, “I AM speaking!” This young woman created a situation where other people decided to speak “lovingly” to the older woman about everything that was wrong with the older woman. The entire situation was out of order and the human herd mind was involved in gang cruelty…in the name of “love.” Eventually Satan used that door and caused the breakup of several friendships in that church. But few of the women in that women’s group realized what had happened.
And both the attacker and the one who was attacked ended up in the throes of resentment. The attacker fell into resentment because she thought highly of herself. Because the rest of the woman’s group was on her side, she never did grow to see her fault. The one who had been attacked fell into resentment because everytime she went to church, most of the women’s group acted cold to her because she did not listen to their haranguing. She felt herself to be ostracized and alone. As C S Lewis wrote “The devil of resentment is that its justified.” But when we are unloved, we are tempted to keep a record of the wrong done to us. However, once resentment begins, it is difficult to repair.
This verse is also translated in the following ways:
New International Version
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
New Living Translation
or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
English Standard Version
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
New American Standard Bible
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,