By Daniel Bobinski
Note: In March of 2020 I decided to use this space to focus on God’s greatest command. If you’re connecting with this series for the first time and would like to read the earlier columns on this topic, I encourage you to visit Christian Living’s website to read the whole series. Go to https://www.christianlivingmag.com/columns/
By way of refresher, the Bible lists 613 laws, and after I became a believer 35 years ago, I went to God in prayer and asked which were the most important. It didn’t take long for the Spirit to lead me to Matthew 22. In that chapter, an expert in the law asks Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus gave a straightforward answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Jesus boldly said that this was the first and greatest commandment.
Then, without being asked, Jesus added, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
After that, Jesus said something amazing. He said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Think about that. All the Law and all the Prophets. Essentially, the main message of the entirety of Scripture was summed up in those two commands.
And so I embarked on a study of agape – the word Jesus used for love in those verses. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul gave us a clear definition of agape when writing to the Corinthians.
God is Love
Scripture is clear that God is love (agape), and Jesus is the embodiment of God in the flesh. Therefore, the actions of Jesus provide the perfect example of what it means to live a life of Godly love. Just put our Savior’s name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and it works beautifully:
Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Jesus does not dishonor others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but he rejoices in the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
As I said, Jesus is the perfect example of agape love. And if we are to follow the greatest command and “Love the Lord,” then we need to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to heart and determine how to live it out.
First, remember we can’t do it alone. We need the Holy Spirit working in us or it’s pretty much impossible. That said, loving God starts by being patient with God. And also kind (useful), too. Plus all the rest I’ve written about over the past two years. And we can’t forget the second greatest command. We are to agape others in the same way that we agape ourselves (love your neighbor as yourself).
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 starts by telling us what to do. Be patient. Be kind (useful). But then, as you’ve noticed over the past year in this space, the passage provides a long string of phrases telling us what love is not. Because we can’t not be something, we needed to figure out the opposite of what was written. For example, if agape is not self-seeking, then it’s safe to say it involves helping others get their needs met.
With the verse we’re examining today, we transition out of Paul telling us what love doesn’t do and he resumes telling us what love does.
Let’s look at the first half of verse 6: Love does not delight in evil. Remember, God is our example, and it holds true, because you never see Jesus rejoicing over an injustice or some form of unrighteousness. Any act that runs counter to God’s desire for mankind would be unpleasing to Jesus, and such acts should be unpleasing to us, as well.
When it comes to the “neighbor” part of the second greatest commandment, we need to acknowledge that sometimes humans rejoice when a bad person gets his comeuppance or when something bad happens to someone we don’t like. This isn’t true for everyone, but if it’s something you notice within yourself, let me suggest it’s a tendency that needs to get turned off. Love doesn’t do that. In its place, we can ask God to give us the mind of Christ, so that we can see our enemies through God’s eyes. Regardless of whether you believe it, God loves the people you don’t like, and He died for them, too. He does not delight when bad things happen to them.
Then comes the cool part of verse 6: Rejoice with the truth. I need to point out that the word “delight” or “rejoice” in the first half of verse 6 is a different word than the “rejoice” in the second half.
The Greek word in the first part of the verse means to delight or rejoice OVER or BECAUSE of something. It’s the same Greek word that’s used when the Magi rejoiced because they saw the star over Bethlehem or when the shepherd rejoiced after finding his lost sheep.
The second “rejoice” is a completely different word, and it means to rejoice with someone in the truth. It means to take part in another person’s joy, or to congratulate them. Ironically, this word is also used in the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd calls his friends and neighbors and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
The first part of verse 6 says don’t delight (rejoice) because something bad happened to someone. The second part of verse 6 says rejoice with others when good things happen. There’s lots of bad happening around us. Let’s make it a point in 2022 to love by rejoicing with others when things go well.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 375-7606.