Love does not delight in evil. The verse characterizes evil as unrighteousness of heart and life. It means that true love does not delight in someone’s misfortune or disgrace. You ever have those moments where you hear, perhaps even second-hand, about someone’s misfortune and there’s a sick little enjoyment that you get out of it? No? Oh, me neither.
Loving well means taking no pleasure in someone else’s difficulties. Further, love rejoices with the truth. It is to be delighted when truth is spoken, even sometimes when the truth hurts.
Here’s how this plays out at my house. Shelley is pretty meticulous, and manages life by files. I, on the other hand, manage life by piles. I forget things, misplace things, and often my mistakes will negatively impact her. She has become TREMENDOUSLY gracious about these things, yet sometimes still gets pretty frustrated with me. When she gets this way, I feel stupid because I’ve made a mistake, and incompetent because I can’t seem to stop making silly mistakes. Here’s the catch; every once in a while Shelley makes a silly mistake too. Minor things, you know, like forgetting to pick up a neighbor’s 2nd grader after school. Then I’m faced with a choice. I can rub it in and remind her that she’s not perfect, so she shouldn’t expect me to be perfect. Or I can engage empathy and help her navigate the embarrassment and shame of her mistake. Pretty clear at this point what Love does, right?
This leads to the first of the “all” or “always” verses depending on translation. In effect, these ‘always’ statements are summaries of what has already been said. I wonder why Paul felt it important to restate them in this way?
Love always protects tops the list. In the scenario above, to love Shelley would be to protect her from further embarrassment, to empathize with her out of my own mistakes, and to shield her from any ongoing shame from someone else or even from herself.
Next, love always trusts. The connotation here is, in an ethical sense, to have confidence in the goodness of man. I appreciate this. My friend Paul was recently talking about this and it rang true for me. He said sometimes when he sees people driving crazy and being dangerous in traffic, rather than write them off and label them as reckless, he assumes they have a good reason for it. Maybe they are late for a funeral or their wife is going into labor. Perhaps they’re trying to get to the most important job interview of their life. Love, always trusting, assumes the best, not the worst in people.
Love always hopes and endures or perseveres. To always hope means to hold out for the best possible to outcome. It means not jumping to conclusions but instead waiting for the final verdict. Innocent until proven guilty. And to endure simply means to be patient and longsuffering, especially under pressure. This circles back directly to the opening statement in Paul’s passage – Love is Patient.
Finally, closing out the whole thing, love never fails. The term used here means to perish or fall. So, the verse is saying love never perishes, or never falls. Love will survive any war waged against it, will make way through any obstacle, will move mountains if it has to, all in maintaining its existence. Love isn’t going away.
It is fitting that in 1 John 4:8 we see that God is Love. The Greek word used in that verse is agape; in other words, God embodies all that we’ve been describing love to be.
So where does this leave us? What difference does all this make?
Love isn’t one action, isn’t a feeling, isn’t a just mindset. It’s more than just being nice. Love is a way of life, brought about by the Holy Spirit in us. It is the byproduct of a mysterious interaction between our intentions and God’s intentions, between our will to live well and God’s sanctifying work in us. It isn’t simply there; it is developed. It has to be honed, crafted, and practiced. By God’s grace we learn to follow his prompts, to behave differently, to be different. Living in a loving way is worshipful, delighting a father watching his kids honor himself.
My big takeaway from all this is simply: One of the highest forms of worship is Loving my wife well.
– Jason Martinkus