March 26, 2006

Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures

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


Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures

1 Corinthians 13:7
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Over 100 years ago the great American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, said, "Some injure others in their good name by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common and no inequity more frequent or base than this. Other ways of injury are abundant (as well). …Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them and so cruelly slandering them. Others without saying that which is directly false greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors - exaggerating their faults and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by this uncharitably judging of one another and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another's words and actions."

Relationships are the building blocks of life. They bring us tremendous joy. But as Jonathan Edwards has testified, they also have the potential to bring us tremendous anguish as well. And the more we give our hearts to another, the more they have a potential to wound us by their words and actions.

As we have covered the attributes of love, I can guarantee that each of us here has felt the sting when someone hurts us by unloving actions. It painfully cuts when another tees off on us in a fit of rage or recites our failures from the past or omits a timely deed of kindness. These sporadic loveless actions hurt, but possibly nothing is more painful and more unloving than someone who gives up on the relationship altogether. This morning's lesson deals with the love attributes that hold a relationship together.

We have spent nine sermons covering eleven attributes of love. If the Lord permits, we will conclude our series this morning by embracing the final four characteristics. These characteristics, all closely related, teach us how we are to conduct ourselves when another person in a relationship commits actions contrary to the biblical model of love.

While we as humans have a tendency to expose another's errors, the Bible says love "bears all things." While we as humans have a tendency to expect the worst, the Bible says love "believes all things." While we as humans have a tendency to think failure is final, the Bible says love "hopes all things." And while we as humans have a tendency to give up, the Bible says love "endures all things."

It is easy to see how the failure to bear, believe, hope and endure in a relationship is unloving. It is easy to see how others have wounded us in this area. However, more difficult to see is how we ourselves have fallen short in these areas. More difficult to see is how we have been unloving ourselves.

May God speak to your heart this morning and help you grow from His Word as we conclude our study from 1 Corinthians 13. May you drink deeply from these final four characteristics that can always be expected of genuine love.


Let's begin first with "Love Bears All Things."

While this attribute could deal with the ability to endure patiently, I believe it best speaks about the desire to cover the faults of another. In other words, when love encounters the weakness of another, it will minimize those weaknesses and do all that it can to not exaggerate them in its own mind or broadcast them into the minds of others. We all have a natural inkling to take pleasure in the sins of another or go out of our way to expose them publicly (gossip, slander) - especially if they are individuals we do not particularly like. But love desires to see another in the best possible light. Love desires to protect the reputation of others. And love even desires to take the pain upon itself if it means achieving these goals.

The great commentator Matthew Henry once said, "It is required of us that we be tender of the good name of our brethren; where we cannot speak well, we had better say nothing than speak evil; we must not take pleasure in making known the faults of others, divulging things that are secret, merely to expose them, nor in making more of their known faults than really they deserve, and, least of all, in making false stories, and spreading things concerning them of which they are altogether innocent. What is this but to raise the hatred and encourage the persecutions of the world, against those who are engaged in the same interests with ourselves, and therefore with whom we ourselves must stand or fall?"

Examples of covering wrongdoing are scattered all over the Bible:

Genesis 9 immediately comes to mind. Do you remember the time when Noah, after planting a vineyard, became intoxicated and lay naked inside his tent? When Ham looked upon his father he immediately spoke to his brothers about their father's shame. But Shem and Japheth refused to dishonor their father. They turned their faces away, departed from the room, and protected their father's dignity. The Bible says they "covered the nakedness of their father" (Gen 9:23).

Matthew 18 comes to mind as well. We all have one thing in common. Each of us will be sinned against by another person. There is nothing we can do to change that reality. However, each of us does have the ability and responsibility to deal with another's sin in a way that honors the Lord. As we learned two weeks ago we can overlook the offense. This clearly seeks to cover and bear with another's sin. But if we cannot overlook the offense and we feel we must speak to the individual, our Lord's words from Matthew 18:15 are applicable. "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private." One on one, away from by-standers, doing everything to contain another's failures, keeping them from reaching the ears of others.

And as we consider this topic, how can the words and actions of Jesus Christ go without comment? The One who never sinned was falsely accused and sentenced to die a painful death as a criminal. Moreover, He suffered not for His own offenses, but the offenses of others, the sins that you and I have committed. As the prophet foretold, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).

And how did Christ respond to this indignity? Peter in his epistle said, "While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23). And rather than exposing the sins of others, He showed His faith in a sovereign Judge. Rather than exposing their error, His memorable words from the cross were, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34).

"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 1:21). When others mistreat us and wound us by their sins, like Jesus, love seeks to bear the weight of their shame, conceal the offense and respond positively with deeds of kindness.

This takes grace, but this is an indication that the love of God is working through us. Once again we read the words of the Apostle Peter: "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4:8). As those who have been covered in the righteousness of Christ, we too must do all we can to cover the sins of another.


So love bears or covers the sins of another and then love, as we move to the second point, believes the best outcome for the one who has done the wrong.

Maybe some self-examination at this point will be helpful.

Let's pretend you leave a message for someone to return your phone call. Two days go by and you have yet to receive a response. How do you initially react to such a situation? "She surely knows nothing about faithfulness." "That's the last time I will ever call her." "I wonder why she is being so inconsiderate of me?" When we think about it, such responses are inconsistent with the thirteenth attribute of love. Since love believes all things, a better response would be: "Possibly she is having a difficult time with life." "Perhaps she misunderstood the message." "Maybe she never received the message."

How do you respond to someone who says, "I didn't mean anything hurtful by that comment." Do you call him a liar or do you believe the best? How do you respond to someone who says, "I truly am sorry for what I have done." Do you judge his motives or simply accept his apology? How do you respond to someone who says, "You need to trust me on this one." Do you press him for more information or accept his word?

You see, my friends, believing another comes down to a matter of faith. Possibly the highest form of honor we can give someone is unwavering trust. It has been said, "Love is a harbor of trust. When trust is broken, love's first reaction is to heal and restore" (John MacArthur). When faith leaves a relationship, love departs with it. So apart from faith in one another, our relationships will dry up and disintegrate.

Therefore love seeks to have faith in the goodness of another's character. Love is not cynical or suspicious. Love does not read between the lines and walk away with the worst. Rather love gives others the benefit of doubt. Love expects the best because love believes the best.

How do you think the man from the Old Testament, Job, felt? The Bible says he was "blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil" (Job 1:1). But to reasons known only to God himself, the man was afflicted with tremendous suffering. And if the loss of his property, children and health wasn't enough, his so-called "friends" only complicated his misery. "Job, where's the secret sin?" "Job, you are being punished by God." "Job, if you'd only come clean, your problems would disappear." Who needs enemies when you've got guys like that hanging around you? Where's the benefit of doubt? Where's the grace? Where's the consideration of his past righteousness? Where's the love that believes the best?

How do you think Jesus felt? The Pharisees followed Him like a hawk looking for the slightest infraction so they could bring a railing accusation against Him (cf. Lk. 6:7; 11:54). And when they couldn't find anything, they made up lies so they might pronounce His guilt. Is it any wonder that Jesus saved His greatest condemnation for these self-righteous, faultfinding hypocrites?

Have you, like Job or Jesus, ever been on the other side of the coin? Guilty until proven innocent? Accused of something you never did? Punished for something you never said? Hated for something you never meant? It hurts! It especially hurts when these actions are committed by brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore since we know the potential for damage, we as believers should always err on the side of grace and mercy. We should treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves. We should believe the best and leave the final judgment in the hands of an omniscient God.

David Powlison said it well, "We judge others - criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn - because we literally play God. This is heinous. (The Bible says,) "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?" Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this we become like the Devil himself. We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God's throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish" (Journal of Biblical Counseling 16, no. 1, fall 1997, p. 34).


In addition to believing the best in our interactions with others, we must also, as we move to the third point, hope the best as well. Here we see the connection between faith, hope and love (1 Cor. 13:13).

Believing the best primarily deals with the immediacy of a present situation, whereas hoping the best deals with the future outcome of a present situation. Believing the best will get us through a difficult situation, but it may not preserve the relationship. Hoping the best enables us to look forward, to see the future outcome in the best possible light.

Hope provides optimism. Hope brings acceptance rather than condemnation. Hope refuses to take failure as final or as one commentator said, "For love there is no hopeless case" (Schrage). Love hopes because love does not write people off.

Confidence in a sovereign God who is faithful to keep His promises provides the anchor we need as Christians to live as those with hope. The unbeliever can be given a new heart. The believer can repent of his sin. We can be strengthened and sustained. We will grow closer to Christ in this trial. Our suffering is only for a season. Our situation will work for God's glory and our good. Hope knows that we will triumph for acting in love because "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8a).

Our faith in God gives us the hope to believe that He "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). For example, when all hope was lost, He brought Jesus Christ back from the dead and accepted His offering as atonement for our sins. Do we dare believe that our situation is too demanding for Him? "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You" (Jer. 32:17). Our ways are not God's ways nor is our timetable, His timetable. But we do know that God is at work accomplishing His perfect will and therefore we can have hope and should exercise hope in our relationship with others.

The Apostle Paul expressed this hope in the Corinthians themselves. Although this church was plagued with sin that resembled the heathens, he never gave up on them and referred to them as "those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling" (1 Cor. 1:2). Despite their ingratitude and their vicious attacks on the man himself, he still considered them God's children, still sought to minister to their greatest needs. He had hope and understood that they were like him, believers in Christ still "under construction." Even after all that went down in his first letter, he began his second epistle by saying, "And our hope for you is firmly grounded" (2 Cor. 1:7; cf. 10:15).


And finally, we move to the final attribute of love. Since love protects, believes and hopes, love will naturally endure through every difficulty in a relationship.

In a nutshell, true love does not give up on or refrain from or walk out on another. Like the other attributes we've studied this morning, this attribute is best seen and demonstrated in times of adversity. It is during these times when we truly witness how much others love us and how much we really love others.

The Greek word for "endure" is hupomeno. It is a military term that was commonly used when a vital position needed to be held onto at all costs. Literally it means to "remain under" and is often translated "persevere" or "endure" in the Bible.

When we don't get our way, when the situation gets "hot," when we are suffering, every fiber in our flesh calls us to run away. But love refuses to give opposition the final word. Love sees these circumstances as opportunities to display "the love of God (that) has been poured out within our hearts" (Rom. 5:5). Love "holds up" rather than "folds up." Love hangs in there. Love does not put time limits on people when things get tough. Love endures at all costs.

We have already seen how the Corinthian church failed miserably in this area. In chapter 6 they were dragging each other into secular courts of law. In chapter 7 they were giving up on their marriages. In his second letter to the church, Paul was afraid that they were giving up on him too. "If I love you more, am I to be loved less" (2 Cor. 12:15)?

When I was in competitive sports, I always shied away from the endurance events. I remember my first swim meet when I was placed in the 500 - I thought I was going to die! I didn't like the endurance events because they brought too much pain. Sprints were over in a flash. Endurance meant extended agony.

Relationships, in order for them to continue, also call for endurance. Because relationships as they progress are bound to encounter rough waters. What do you do during these times? Do you sprint away or do you endure the agony? This is a test of your Christian character. This is a test of your love. Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

As if this material were not convicting enough, the Holy Spirit adds the words "all things" to the end of each attribute. Paul is using hyperbole and obviously there are times that we should not bear with a false teacher in the church or believe to the point of being gullible or lacking discernment or hope contrary to God's Word or endure if we are being physically abused. The "all things" is tempered by the context, by what we learned last week. "(Love) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6). But the addition of "all things" does teach us that these attributes of love are not to be followed only when we find them convenient. Another translation helps to bring out the reality of "all things." "Love never tires of support, never loses faith, never exhausts hope, never gives up."

I was just thinking this week how I fail to exercise these attributes at times in my relationship with God. It only reveals how much I need to grow in exercising them with other humans who are imperfect.

There is no doubt that this standard of love, which we have been covering the past ten sermons, both requires and reveals the grace of God operative in our lives. It is a call to die to self, surrender to Christ and allow the love of God channeled by the Holy Spirit to work mightily through us in our relationships with others. It is a call to love others in a way we want to be loved ourselves, to love others in a way we have been loved by Christ.

This series comes to a close, but as Paul said in this chapter, love will never end. "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

  • "Love is patient" and forbearing under injuries and annoyances--and does not revile, revenge, or retaliate.

  • "Love is kind," not harsh or crude--but ever ready, willing, and pleased by looks, words, and actions, to promote the comfort of others.

  • "Love does not envy." It does not pine and grieve at the sight of another's superior possessions, fame, happiness, or piety--and dislike him on that account.

  • "Love does not boast. Love is not proud." It neither boasts its own gifts, achievements, and possessions, nor despises others, nor makes insulting comparisons--but is humble and gentle.

  • "Love does not behave unseemly." It modestly keeps its place, and does nothing to offend by what is unfitting its rank, station, or circumstances.

  • "Love seeks not her own." It does not selfishly want to have its own way, or promote its own interest--to the neglect of others.

  • "Love is not easily provoked." It governs its temper, controls its passions, and is not soon or unreasonably irritable or petulant.

  • "Love thinks no evil." It is not censorious, nor forward to impute a bad motive to a doubtful action--but is disposed to put the best construction on the actions and words of others.

  • "Love rejoices not in iniquity--but rejoices in the truth." It does not delight in the sins--but in the excellences of an opponent.

  • "Love bears (or covers) all things." It does not divulge, proclaim, aggravate faults--but hides them as far as it can, and it is right to do so.

  • "Love believes all things," that are to the advantage of another.

  • "Love hopes all things," where there is not sufficient evidence to authorize belief.

  • "Love endures all things," bears hardships, sustains labor, makes sacrifices--in order to accomplish its purposes of good-will."

John Angell James, Christian Love

other sermons in this series

Mar 19


Love Rejoices With Righteousness

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

Mar 12


Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

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