Text: 1 Corinthians 13:7 July 10, 2011.
1) The benefit of their doubt: In 1860, Dr. Thomas Inman made a recommendation to his fellow doctors they would not prescribe a medicine for a cure if they weren’t really sure it would work. They were to give their patients “the benefit of their doubts.” This phrase is also a legal term meaning that if a jury has conflicting evidence that make the jury doubtful in a trial, they are to give the verdict of “not guilty.”
2) The benefit of our doubt: I believe as Christians we can learn from this medical and legal phrase and apply to our relationship with others. Better yet, we can learn from the Bible about giving the benefit of the doubt to others when we hear stories of their failure or misfortune. When we hear something negative about others or we are suspicious about the motive of their actions, let us stop before we judge their intention as bad or wrong. Let us give them “the benefit of our doubt.” Dr. Leon Morris gave his interpretation on 1 Corinthians 13:7, says: When we truly love others, we need to see the best in them, to doubt rumors about them and to have faith in God that He will bring them back to His side. That is to give them “the benefit of the doubt.”
SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO FOR US?
The four qualities of love in 13:7 are hyperbole, exaggerations to make a point. Paul has made it clear that love rejects jealousy, bragging, arrogance, unseemliness, selfishness, unrighteousness, resentment, and anger. Love does not bear, believe, hope or endure lies or teach false doctrines or anything else that does not bring glory to God. By all things Paul is talking about things that are acceptable in God’s righteousness, everything within the Lord’s divine nature. These four qualities of love listed here are closely related and are given in ascending order.
LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS:
1) The definition of “to bear”: To bear, stego, in Greek, means to cover, to protect and to support. Therefore, love bears all things by protecting others from exposing them to attacks or ridicule or harm. Genuine love to others does not gossip or listen to gossips. Even if a sin is in concern, love tries to correct it with the least hurt or harm to the guilty person. Love never protects sin but is anxious to protect the sinner.
2) When there is no love: Fallen human nature has the opposite inclination. There is a perverse pleasure in exposing someone’s faults and failures. That is what makes gossip appealing. There was little or no concern in the Corinthian church on the feeling and welfare of the fallen brother. Everyone was looking for his own benefit and no one else. They paid no attention to others, except when those others failed and sinned. Man’s depravity causes him to rejoice in the failures and sins of others. It is that depraved pleasure that sells newspapers and magazines and TV news that caters to exposes. Whether to feel self righteous by exposing the sin of a another or to enjoy that sin vicariously, we all are tempted to take some pleasure in the sins of others. True love has no part of all these. Love does not expose or exploit, gloat or condemn on others’ failure. Love bears and covers.
3) What does the Bible say: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” (Prov. 10:12) We can measure our love for a person by how quick we are to cover his faults. Love does not justify sin. Love warns, corrects, rebukes sin and disciplines the sinner. But love does not expose or broadcast their failures and wrongs. The mercy seat where the blood of atonement sprinkled (Lev. 16:14) was a covering for the sins of the people. The OT mercy seat covering prefigured the perfect and final covering of sin by the blood of Jesus on the cross. (Rom. 3:25-26; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2) In the cross, God threw the great mantle of his love over sin, covering it forever for those who trust in His Son.
LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS:
1) Definition of “to believe”: To believe, pisteuel, from pisthw, in Greek, means mainly to persuade, to convince, to assure and to have confidence. Love is not suspicious or cynical. When love sees the wrong, love also believes the outcome would be right if we can have confidence in God and His mercy. To believe is proactive and about positive in the face of failure and wrong-----that the wrong will be confessed, forgiven and the loved one will be restored to right.
2) Worst scenario of “not believe”: The “friends” of Job showed few signs, if any, of love. They were ready to believe the worst about Job, being thoroughly convinced that his problems could only have been caused by his sins. Job did not understand why he was suffering so terribly but he knew it was not because of his sins. But his friends did not give him the benefit of the doubt because they had no true love for their friend. They made up their mind before they knew anything that Job was guilty and deserved the punishment he was under.
3) What does the Bible say: Love is a harbor of trust, believes in the best of the one accused. Love presumes innocent until it is proven guilty. Even it is guilty, love believes in the mercy and power of God that He will bring out the best from the worst. The Apostle Paul says this, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Each one looking to yourself, less you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
LOVE HOPES FOR ALL THINGS:
1) Definition of “to hope”: To hope, elpizei from elpis, in Greek, to expect, to look for with confidence and trust in. Even when belief in someone’s goodness and repentance is shattered, love still hopes for the best. When love runs out on faith, it continues to hope. As long as God’s grace is operative, human failure is never final. God did not take the failures of Israel as final. Jesus did not take Peter’s failure as final. There are more than promises in the Bible to make love hopeful.
2) Best scenario of hope: Without any news or hint of news about his son, the father didn’t give up hope that someday his beloved son will come home and he will receive him without any ill feeling. That is how the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (15:20)This is the best demonstration of what love can do with hope in even a hopeless situation.
3) What does the Bible say: In teaching the early Christians not to judge others based on their own standard or guidelines on eating food offered to idols, Paul admonished them not to judge others. He says, “Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judg-ment on disputable matters....Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1, 4) In Hebrews 11:1, the Bible says, “Faith is being sure what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Even when we don’t see any possibility that person or thing will never change, we still need to keep our hope alive because our hope rests in God, not in things or people.
LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS:
1) Definition of “to endure”: To endure, utomenei from utomeno in Greek, is a compound word of uto and meno, to stay under, to remain staying, to continue holding out. In today language we call it the “staying power” under pressure of extreme condition. This is what God calls on us to remain faithful even under persecution and suffering. This is a military term used of an army holding a vital position at all costs. Every hardship and every suffering was to be endured to hold fast.
2) Beautiful biblical example: Stephen lovingly bore the ridicule and rejection of those to whom he witnessed. Their taunts would not make him stop believing they would believe. Their stones would not make him stop hoping they would be saved. He died praying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) Like the Lord Jesus, Stephen loved them to the end the unloving enemies who put him to death. His love endured.
3) True love always endured: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning the shame, and set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) “Jesus knew that the time has come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) This is the best illustration of enduring love.
1) Love is about people: When the Bible says “love bears all, believes all, hopes all and endures all,” it is talking about people. Love is best demonstrated when we apply it to people, all kinds of people, including those we may think not deserve. It is for the souls of people God sent His Son Jesus to the world. We need to focus on people, not what they have done, to express our love. Whatever they may have done, we always love them. That is what God will do and we need to follow.
2) Love loves all sinners: We tend to categorize sins into classes and treat them differently. To more “serious” sins, we tend to withhold our love and forgiveness in contrast to “lesser” sins. But that is not the way God sees sins. Anything we think and do to violate God’s holiness and character, we have sinned against Him. When love is true and genuine we love them all regardless of whatever the failures or sins may be. If God only forgives our lesser sins, how many of us are sure that we are forgiven and saved? Do not withhold our love to all people in all their failures and sins. We need them to forgive us as much we need to forgive them.