Loves Rejoices in Truth

            Many of you know that Sueanne and I enjoy playing games.  We enjoy board games and we especially enjoy playing computer games together.  And whenever you play multiplayer games, there are two different modes that you can play.  You can either play cooperatively, like Sueanne and I do, where you try to work together to accomplish certain tasks.  Or you can play competitively, where you try to beat the other person you’re playing with.   

            If you choose to play competitively, you will always view the other person as your enemy.  You will do everything you can to put the other person down, to show that you are better than they are.  The more mistakes they make, the happier you are, because this is your competition.

            Although that’s not the way that Sueanne and I like to play our games, there are lots of people who prefer the competitive mode, which is usually referred to as PVP, or player vs. player.  And that’s not always a terrible thing when you’re playing a video game, but, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who view life that way. 

            They view life as a competition and it’s all about winning, which means coming out on top, being better than everyone else.  And if that’s my goal, that means that I consider everyone else to be my enemy.  Everyone is my competitor, and so I’m happy when good things happen to me, and I’m just as happy when bad things happen to you. 

            But life is not a video game, and viewing others as our competition keeps us as showing love the way God has commanded us.  As we’ve seen as we’ve gone through the characteristics of love in I Corinthians 13, love is not selfish.  It’s not self-centered.  It’s not about “me first”.  Rather, agape love is focused on others, putting others first.

            Several weeks ago, I pointed out that Paul shows us here what love is, what love is not, what love does and doesn’t do, and then, finally, what love always does.

            We looked first at what love is.  Love is patient and kind.  And then we looked at what love is not.  Love is not envious, it’s not boastful or arrogant, it’s not rude or self-seeking, it’s not irritable or resentful.   This morning, we want to take a look at what love does and doesn’t do.

            Verse 6, “ [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1 Corinthians 13:6)

            Notice that this verse is about what our hearts rejoice in.  What thrills our hearts.  What makes us happy.  What makes us glad.  What we delight in or rejoice in.

            And to say that love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing seems to be rather obvious.  You shouldn’t sin and you shouldn’t be happy when you do sin.  And while that’s certainly true, we’ve got to remember here that Paul is talking about love, and love is all about how you deal with other people.  And so, I want to talk about several different things that I think are involved in this statement.  Paul begins first with the negative side of it: 

A.        Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing

            Other translations say, “Love does not rejoice in iniquity” (NKJV), “Love does not delight in evil” (NIV), “Love finds no joy in unrighteousness” (CEV).  Which is simply another way of saying that love never takes pleasure in sin. 

            Now, as I said, that could mean that we shouldn’t rejoice in sins that we have committed (which is certainly true).  But keep in mind the context of love.  Paul has been telling us what love will lead us to do in relationship with other people.  Love will cause us to be patient with others, love will cause us to be kind to others, love will allow us not to be envious of others, and so on.

            And so, it makes sense that Paul is mostly concerned here about us not rejoicing in the iniquity of others.  In fact, there are a couple of translations that make this clear.  Moffatt’s translation says, “Love is never glad when others go wrong.”  Phillips’ translation says, “Love does not gloat over the wickedness of other people.”  In other words, love doesn’t rejoice when other people do things that are wrong and love doesn’t rejoice when bad things happen to others. 

            But this was a big problem in Corinth.  Remember back in chapter 5, there was a member of that congregation who was committing fornication with his father’s wife.  Paul said it was a terrible sin, even by the world’s standards.  Then he rebuked the whole congregation because of their attitude.  They should have been upset, they should have been sad about what was going on, but they weren’t.  Instead, they were proud of themselves.  Maybe they were proud because they thought they doing such a good job of loving this brother, but that wasn’t love at all.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

            And sometimes it’s not so much that we like to see other people do sinful things or that we want bad things to happen to them so much as it is that we simply take pleasure in hearing something derogatory about someone else.  It’s one of the quirks of our human nature that we would rather hear about the misfortunes of others rather than their good fortune.  We are much more interested in hearing the dirt about other people than we are in hearing the good stuff about them. 

            If you don’t believe that, let me illustrate it with an example.  Suppose I were to tell you that Justin Winans shot a 75 on the golf course yesterday.  Now, some of you might think that’s somewhat interesting.  A few of you who like to play golf might be interested enough to want to find out more of the details.  But the overwhelming response in this congregation (especially among the women) would be, “Who cares?”

            But suppose I were to tell you (in strictest confidence, of course) that Justin has left Lori and he’s getting ready to run off to Bermuda with another woman.  I suspect that would attract your attention, and you would want to know just as many details as I could provide.  You see, there’s something in us that likes to hear stories like that for some perverse reason, and that reason is not love.  Incidentally, let me set the record straight because I don’t want anyone leaving here this morning believing the wrong thing and spreading a lot of rumors — Justin did not shoot a 75 at the golf course yesterday!

            One of the most common forms of rejoicing in sin involves gossip.  Gossip is sinful not only because it uncaringly reveals the weaknesses and sins of others, and it often seeks to hurt others rather than help them, but because the very heart of gossip is rejoicing in evil.  And let me make this point — gossip that is true is still gossip.  It’s the way that unfavorable truth is passed on, and sometimes simply the fact that it is passed on, that makes gossip gossip.  The essence of gossip is gloating over the shortcomings and sins of others. 

            This concept of rejoicing in the misfortunes of others is the whole principle that governs the news on television and in the newspaper and tabloids.  What sells?  What draws the ratings?  You may have heard the news anchor’s motto – “If it bleeds, it leads,” It’s the stories of violence and disasters and murders and sex and immorality.  Most people would rather hear bad news than good news.  And unfortunately, we would rather hear of the misfortunes of others rather than the good things that happen to them.

            So, the question is, “Why?”

B.        Why do we rejoice in wrongdoing?

            In fact, you may be thinking, “I disagree with you, Alan.  I would never rejoice in the wrongdoing of others.”  But before you jump to that conclusion, let’s take a closer look at ourselves.  And I think you may find that we sometimes do it without even realizing that we’re doing it.  What are some of the reasons that we have a tendency to rejoice in the wrongdoing of others? 

1.         Sometimes, someone else’s mistakes may benefit you.

            This is especially true if you are in competition with someone else.  When our son Joshua was young, we would often go to the ball field to watch him play Little League — it was just a game, but it was serious stuff to us parents who were sitting up in the bleachers.  Let me tell you something that happened numerous times.  Whenever Joshua would step up to the plate and hit a ground ball to an infielder, if that infielder bobbled the ball or threw it over the first baseman’s head, you know what I did?  I cheered.  Some poor kid just made a terrible mistake and I was excited and happy.  Do you know why?  Because every time any player on that team made a mistake, it helped Joshua.

            While we never quite express our emotions in such an outward manner, I think the same thing can be found in our personal lives.  Suppose you’re being considered for a promotion and a substantial raise in salary.  The choice has been narrowed down to you and one other person.  Then, the day before the decision is to be made, that other person really botches up something on the job, really messes things up bad.  How does that make you feel?  If you’re being honest with yourself, I think you’ll discover that you’re a little bit happy inside because of someone else’s mistakes.  The reason is that you stand to profit from it.  I realize that response is almost natural, but we need to understand that it’s not the response of love.

2.      Sometimes we rejoice in the sins of others because it gives us a feeling of spiritual superiority. 

            That was the problem the Pharisees had when they refused to associate with the tax collectors and the prostitutes.  They gained a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that they were spiritually superior.  As long as there were other people committing such terrible sins as fornication and stealing, they thought that made them look pretty good in the eyes of God. 

            Remember the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18?  “God, I thank you that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11).  And maybe, just maybe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have the tendency to rejoice a bit when somebody else stumbles, even another Christian, because that makes us look a little bit better.

3.      Sometimes we rejoice in others’ mistakes and misfortunes because of resentment we harbor against them. 

            This goes back to what we talked about last week.  If we’ve had an argument with someone or they didn’t treat us very nicely, then if they stumble and fall or some misfortune comes their way, we feel a sense of satisfaction, because we think they’re getting what they deserve.

            But listen to this proverb of Solomon, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and it displease him…” (Proverbs 24:17-18a).  That’s one of those tough really passages to put into practice.  Solomon says, “Don’t be happy when something bad happens to someone you don’t like.”  And that’s tough, isn’t it?

4.      Sometimes we rejoice in the sins of someone else because we feel that it gives us an excuse to do the same thing. 

            Maybe we’re hesitant to go to certain movies or tell certain off-color jokes or fudge a little on our income tax forms.  But, if we see other Christians doing or saying these things, then it makes us feel pretty good because it soothes our conscience a bit and allows us to follow their example and rationalize it in our mind.  So, we’re happy to see someone else doing those things.

C         The Wrongness of Rejoicing in Sin

            So, there are a lot of different reasons why we may do it, but Paul tells us that love will never rejoice at the sins of other people.  The reason is because this attitude is so far removed from the heart of the gospel.  It’s certainly not the example that God has set for us.  God does not rejoice in o0ur wrongdoing.  When God saw that mankind had sinned and turned away from him, there was no joy on his part.  Rather, we read in Genesis 6:6 that “he was grieved in his heart”.

            As Jesus approached Jerusalem near the end of his ministry, he “saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41).  He wept because Jerusalem was the center of the Jews’ rejection of him.  They were going to be destroyed for that, but Jesus took no pleasure in knowing that fact.  The fact is that God is never happy when someone chooses to rebel against him.

            How would you feel if you knew other people were rejoicing every time you do something wrong?  Would you want your fellow Christians to take pleasure in the fact that you are wandering further from God rather than moving closer to him?  If we knew that other people had that attitude, we would consider them callous and uncaring.  But what does that make us when we see others sin and inwardly rejoice?

            Love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing”.   There’s actually two different pieces.  Love doesn’t rejoice when bad things are done by others.  And love doesn’t rejoice when bad things are done to others. 

            I think about how King Saul tried to kill David for years, but when Saul was finally killed in battle, news was brought to David thinking he would be happy to find out.  But David refused to rejoice that his enemy was dead.  Instead, he went into a period of mourning.  David refused to delight in evil.  Why is it so bad to delight in evil?  It’s because evil is evil – no matter who it happens to.  And loving people don’t love evil!

            Love takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, in injustice, in any wickedness at all. Love never rejoices when people are mistreated, when evil wins out, when God is dishonored, or when God’s law is disobeyed.  Rather than rejoicing, love cries out with the psalmist in Psalm 119, “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” (Psalm 119:136)

            Love does not delight when another person commits a sin. Love is never glad at another person’s misfortune, never gossips about another person’s problems. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.  Instead, love does just the opposite……

D.        Love Rejoices in the Truth

            Love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness; it rejoices with the truth.  At first glance, that may seem a little strange.  You would expect for Paul to say, “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but love rejoices in righteousness”.  But he says instead that love rejoices in the truth.  But the truth that Paul is speaking about here is not simply factual truth.  He’s talking about God’s truth, God’s revealed word.  Righteousness is based on God’s truth and, in fact, the two are inseparable.

            It’s the same thought that John expressed in his second letter:  “I rejoiced greatly that I found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.” (II John 4).  If we’re walking in truth, then we’re walking in righteousness, and vice versa.

            So, Paul says here that love rejoices when people do things that are good and right.  Love rejoices when good things happen to others.  We rejoice when men and women are brought closer to Jesus Christ.  We rejoice when Christians are edified and strengthened.  Love rejoices in every Christian virtue.  Love rejoices whenever someone wins a victory over sin.  Love rejoices when church divisions are healed and brethren are reunited.  Love rejoices any time men and women become more like Jesus Christ.

            There’s a chapter in the Bible that describes this joy.  It’s Luke 15 where Jesus told three parables.  There’s a parable about a lost sheep that’s found, a lost coin that’s found, a lost son who comes home.  And in each of those three parables, there is an emphasis on rejoicing.

            In verse 7, when the shepherd finds his lost sheep, “he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ (Luke 15:7)

            In verse 9, the woman who finds her lost coin “calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” (Luke 15:9)

            And in the parable of the prodigal son, when the son came home, the father said, “‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:23-24).

            Those of us who are Christians need to be excited when people repent of their sins and make their lives right with God.  Because true Christian love makes the things that are important to God also important to us.  Love never rejoices in evil, but it always rejoices in truth.

            Instead of gossiping — finding things wrong in someone else’s life and spreading that all around — love tries to find the good in people and talks about that and rejoices with them.  But to do that, we’ve got to stop viewing people as our competition.

            There’s a beautiful story from Olympic history.  Most of you will recognize the name of Jesse Owens.  At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens was on the United States track and field team.  And while there is always a competitive spirit at the Olympics, there was even more so that year because of the German leaders’ belief that Aryans — white people — were superior to other races.

            And so, it was significant when Jesse Owens, a black man, won four gold medals; one each in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump, and a medal for being part of the 4×100 meter relay team.

            You may have heard all that before, but you may not have heard the story behind Jesse’s long jump competition.  It was a competition he seemed certain to win.  After all, the year before, Jesse had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — a record that would stand for 25 years.  But at the 1936 Olympics, he was almost disqualified from the long jump immediately. 

            You first have to qualify by jumping a certain distance, and you get three attempts to do it.  On his first two attempts, Jesse fouled by stepping over the jump line.  A third foul and he would have been out of the competition.

            As he walked over to the long-jump pit, Jesse saw a tall, blue-eyed, blond German taking practice jumps.  Jesse felt nervous.  He was well aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long.

            He said to Jesse, “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!”  Then he made a suggestion. The qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, three feet less than what Jesse was able to jump.  So why not make a mark several inches behind the takeoff board and jump from that spot?  That way, Jesse wouldn’t risk stepping over the jump line.

            Jesse took Luz’s advice and he qualified with no trouble.  In the finals that afternoon, Jesse Owens won the gold medal. The first one to congratulate the Olympic record holder was Luz Long.

            Owens later said, “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler.  You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment.”

            It is only when we stop viewing others as our competition that we can truly desire the very best for them.  “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1 Corinthians 13:6). 


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