March 12, 2006

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Preeminence of Love Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5


Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

1 Corinthians 13:5
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

When I was much younger, I always gravitated toward contact sports. And even when I wasn't participating in organized athletics, I would think nothing of diving for a ball on the street or playing tackle football without any protection or wrestling a colleague in our dorm room. It was fun while it lasted, but the former abuse of my body combined with the increase of age is beginning to have its negative impact.

Today, even the smallest degree of physical exertion results in pulled muscles and strained joints. It seems impossible to go a day without a stiff neck or a sore back or an aching shoulder.

While I'm sure many of you can identify with daily physical pain, I'm sure all of you can identify with the emotional pain we experience on a daily basis. We live and move in a world of sinners. And these sinners bring pain into our lives through gossip and cutting words and broken promises just to name a few. And if you are one that opens your heart to people, your vulnerability only deepens the pain and intensifies the grief.

When our defense mechanisms kick in, there are many ways we handle the daily mistreatment from others. One of those ways, in which we are all guilty of to some degree, is storing up those hurts for a future assault. When someone wounds us, we have a natural tendency to file it away in our holster as a silver bullet to be used against the individual at a future showdown if necessary.

The flesh loves to store the ways others wrong us. It loves to dwell on these wrongs and exaggerate them exponentially. And it longs for the opportunity when they can be fired back at the one who wronged us as ammunition to get even or execute revenge.

Beloved, I am here to tell you this morning that such a spirit is contrary to the agape love we have been studying these past weeks. In 1 Corinthians 13 we read that love "keeps no record of wrongs" (NIV) or love does not "store up grievances" (NJB) or love "does not take into account a wrong suffered" (NASB).

Literally the Greek can be translated "not reckon the bad." The original word for "reckon" (logizomai) was an accountant's word used for entering an item in a ledger so it would not be forgotten. The goal was to make a permanent record that could be consulted at a future date if necessary. Permitted in the world of accounting. Not permitted in the world of relationships. True love does not keep tabs on the ways others have hurt us.

If you like foreign words, how about the word, issumagijoujungnainermik. (That's 24 letters if you want to pull it out next time you play "hangman.") It's a word invented by the Moravian missionaries when they went to the Eskimos to share Jesus. This word is a compound word made up of many of their shorter words when they needed a translation for the word "forgiveness." Its literal meaning is beautiful: "Not being able to think about it anymore."

Yes, like aches and pains on our physical body, we are all hurt by others emotionally on a regular basis. But storing up these grievances and using them against those who hurt us is contrary to God 's word and detrimental to our own happiness. This morning, we'll examine this ninth attribute of love from 1 Corinthians 13:5.


Let's begin first with the "Theological Rationale." That's just a fancy way of saying why God finds the sin of keeping a record of wrong so distasteful.

The Bible is crystal clear. Each one of us commits sins against God, daily. Some are obvious, like drunkenness. Some are subtle, like telling a "white lie." And some are unknown, never brought to our attention due to our own ignorance or self-deception. Nevertheless, each us are adding to the debt we owe our Creator, daily. And as the God who sees all and knows all is adding these sins into His ledger, we increase our guilt before a holy God. And our sins will be brought to light when the books will be opened on Judgment Day (Rev. 20:12, 13). The result? According to the Bible "the wages of (our) sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a). Conscious spiritual death eternally separated from Him in hell.

Needless to say, we are in grave danger. We can never live a life without sin (1 Jn. 1:8) nor can all the good deeds in the world remove the offenses we have committed against God (Gal. 2:21). That's the bad news.

Yet with God there is always hope. While the wages of sin may be death, that same verse also promises that "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23b). For those of us in Christ Jesus, we have been given a wonderful gift. The gift is called salvation. It is given freely to those who express faith in Jesus Christ and repent from their sins. Through Christ and His death on the cross, God promises to do something remarkable. He takes all of our sin - past present and future - and places them on Christ and in return places Christ's perfect righteousness on us (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, our sin will never be used against us! The ledger that once condemned us has been wiped clean (Rom. 8:1)! We are forgiven!

So with this as a theological background, I hope you can see how offensive God finds it when another Christian still holds a sin against somebody. If we have been given forgiveness at an infinite proportion, how can we dare hold a wrong against someone for what in comparison is a trivial offense? If a perfect God has forgiven us for so much, how can we who are imperfect ourselves, not forgive another for so little?

Jesus makes this point in His parable in Matthew 18. Please turn there with me. While we often refer to this as the "church discipline chapter," maybe we would do better to refer to this as the "forgiveness chapter."

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Mt. 18:23-35).

Is the point hitting home? Do you see how much God despises an unforgiving spirit among His children? Ken Sande in The Peacemaker said, "We take God's forgiveness for granted (when) we stubbornly withhold our forgiveness from others. In effect, we behave as though other's sins against us are more serious than our sins against God" (p. 217). Such a spirit, my friends, reveals the fact that we understand nothing about the great forgiveness of God and thereby must put the reality our faith into question.

Philip Ryken concurs, "The ability to forgive is one of the surest signs of having been forgiven. It is part of the proof that we have received God's grace …Those who are truly forgiven, truly forgive" (When You Pray, p. 138).

Let's go back to God's forgiveness once again:

One rainy afternoon a man was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick. Suddenly, his daughter, Aspen, spoke up from her relaxed position in her seat. "Dad, I'm thinking of something."

This announcement usually meant she had been pondering some fact for a while, and was now ready to expound all that her six-year-old mind had discovered. He was eager to hear.

"What are you thinking?" he asked. "The rain;" she began, "is like sin, and the windshield wipers are like God wiping our sins away."

After the goose bumps raced up his arms he was able to respond. "That's really good, Aspen." Then his curiosity broke in. How far would this little girl take this revelation? So he asked... "Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming? What does that tell you?"

Aspen didn't hesitate one moment with her answer: "We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us."

Isaiah 43:25 - "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins."

Isaiah 44:22 - "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."

Psalm 130:3-4 - "If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared."

Psalm 103:12 - "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."

Psalm 32:1 - "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!"

Jeremiah 31:34c - "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

The only entry (or should I say declaration) in God's books among His children is "righteousness," thanks not to our own merit, but rather the blood of Jesus Christ.

As a matter of fact, that same accountant's word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 13:5 is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to our debt of sin that has been wiped clean, never to used against us again.

Romans 4:8 - "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

2 Corinthians 5:19a - "Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them."

Christian, we must be people who understand and appreciate our forgiveness! And in the same way we have been so graciously forgiven by God, we too must extend that same forgiveness with others.

One day the Apostle Peter came up to Jesus and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times" (Mt. 18:21)? According to Jewish tradition, you were to forgive a person three times. Peter was probably feeling pretty self-righteous as he doubled the number and added one for good measure. Our Lord put the man in his place. "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Mt. 18:22). In other words, forgiveness has no limit. Forgiveness is not earned. Forgiveness is not based on a guarantee it won't happen again. True forgiveness keeps no record of wrongs. It responds to others in the same way God has responded to us.

Convicted? Actually, it's even more convicting than that! In the Lord's Prayer our Savior said, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt. 6:12). We are so familiar with this verse; we often don't catch the true intention. Did you hear what Jesus said? We are asking God to forgive us in the same way we have forgiven others. Are we prepared to allow God's forgiveness of us to be paralleled by our forgiveness for others? Are we willing to have the way we forgive others to be the standard or basis for God forgiveness for us? Are we really prepared to make that wager to God? We must because two verses later our Lord said, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Mt. 6:14-15). That's why Spurgeon said if we don't forgive, we read our own death warrant every time we read the Lord's Prayer (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 24:694).

Besides displeasing the Lord and questioning our own salvation, an unforgiving spirit also produces devastating consequences in us. When we refuse to release another for a pain that they have inflicted on us, we only bring greater anguish on ourselves. We give ourselves over to the "torturers" that Jesus spoke about in the Matthew 18 parable. These torturers can be self-destructive feelings such as anger, bitterness, resentment and revenge, which often result in insomnia, fear, anxiety, depression and broken fellowship with God and others. It's been said, "Unforgiveness is the poison we drink while we wait for our enemy to die."

But Pastor, you don't know how much he hurt me! But Pastor, you don't realize how long this has been going on! But Pastor, there is no way I can forgive her for that!

It's tough and I know it. Even the disciples, men like us, experienced the difficulties of forgiving others. In Luke 17 Jesus said, "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him'" (Lk. 17:3-4). To that high standard these men said, "Increase our faith" (Lk. 17:5). Yes it seems impossible, but God gives us the grace to fulfill His expectations. With Him, all things are possible. He can strengthen you to overcome the seemingly insurmountable task of forgiving others just as He has forgiven you.


You say, "O.K., how do I do it?" Let's consider some practical application of this topic as we move to the second point.

When someone sins against us, there are basically two things we can do. We can hold on to the wrong and use it against him in the future or we can release the person from the wrongdoing through forgiveness. For God's glory and our joy, we must do the latter.

As a matter of fact, the Greek word for forgiveness (aphiemi) means exactly that. It means to "let go" or "leave behind." Basically, forgiveness is a promise to do three things: Not dwell on the forgiven offense personally, not discuss it with others, and not use the sin against the individual in the future. Forgiveness is an expression of love, because love according to 1 Corinthians 13, "keeps no records of wrongs." Unforgiving people have great memories, but love, as it has been said, is a great forgetter.

Let's get even more specific. Someone has just wronged you and he or she has not offered you an apology. Since love keeps no record of wrongs, there are two and only two ways to remove the person's offense.

Oftentimes, the best response is to speak to the person who has wounded you. This should be done: As soon as possible (Eph. 4:26), in private (Mt. 18:15), with humility and gentleness (Gal. 6:1), and with charitable judgments believing the best (1 Cor. 13:7) - oftentimes we have misunderstood the situation or have exaggerated his or her offense. After the situation is clarified, forgiveness should be expressed and the situation should be dropped - the hatchet should be buried, and don't leave the handle sticking out of the ground to pull out later.

The second possibility to release the wrong of another is for you to overlook the offense. The Bible does not say we need to confront others every time they offend us. As a matter of fact we read:

Proverbs 19:11 - "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression."

Proverbs 10:12 - "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions."

1 Peter 4:8 - "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Overlooking an offense is a deliberate decision: Not to talk about it, not to dwell on it, not to let it grow into bitterness or anger, and not to use it against the person in the future.

You say, how do I know when I should confront a person and when I should overlook an offense? Good question! Ultimately it is a call you need to make in your own heart, but possibly a few guidelines will be of assistance.

First, if the offense has erected a wall in your relationship with the other person or you feel differently toward the individual or if you are struggling with anger and bitterness, you should confront the individual. Second, if the offense causes serious harm to the person, others or God's reputation, you likewise should confront the individual (See Sande, The Peacemaker, p. 83).

We will be sinned against. We can confront the sin or overlook the offense. Either way, we must forgive the person, reconcile the relationship and refuse to keep a record of the wrong.

My friends, we are all saints who still sin. We are imperfect. We will hurt one another. Hang around me long enough and I guarantee at some point, I will let you down too. But as hurtful as these times may be, they are golden opportunities to show the world that we really do love one another. That we really do understand how much we have been forgiven by God; that we really do want to die to self and extend that same grace to others. We must begin to think of our differences not as the end of love, but rather as an occasion to love.

One Pastor said, "Some saints seem to have photographic memories when it comes to offenses against them. One little irritation brings to mind an entire file of previous offenses, carefully annotated and documented. This kind of mental bookkeeping only serves to fuel resentment and certainly does not facilitate true reconciliation" (Bob Deffinbaugh).

We are so quick to want God's justice on our enemies, but God's mercy on ourselves. Christian, do you realize how much you have been forgiven by the Almighty? All of your sins have been forgiven in Christ. You have been washed in His blood. The record has been wiped clean, permanently deleted. How in the world can we accept this awesome reality and then still keep a record of the ways others have wronged us?

As we transition to the Lord's Table, I must remind you as we prepare for a time of self-examination, that if you are here without Jesus Christ you are not forgiven by your Creator. Your sins are being recorded in His ledger and according to the Bible; you await "a terrifying expectation of judgment" (Heb. 10:27). I beg you to give your life to Jesus today! Believe on His sacrifice on the cross to remove your sins. Turn from your sins and commit your life into His loving and forgiving arms.

other sermons in this series

Mar 26


Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:7 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 19


Love Rejoices With Righteousness

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 5


Love Is Not Provoked

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love