Ice-Cream Love—Part 3 (1 Corinthians 13)
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
1 Corinthians 13 contains the defining verses when it comes to Christian love. It makes the point that love is a verb, not just an emotion or feeling. It is not ice-cream love, which is another name for infatuation. Love is demonstrated by doing certain things that are prescribed in Scripture and not doing other things that are proscribed. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 explains as follows what love is and is not as well as what it does and does not do:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not envious
Love is not boastful
Love is not arrogant
Love is not rude
Love does not insist on getting its own way
Love is not irritable
Love is not resentful
Love does not enjoy indulging in wrong-doing
Love is truthful
To review, Part 1 of this series dealt with the first four characteristics of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Part 2 explained the next four characteristics. In Part 3, the final installment of this series, the focus is on the last three characteristics: 1) love is not resentful, 2) love does not enjoy wrong-doing, and 3) love is truthful. Let’s look at each of these characteristics and how to apply them in our daily lives so that we may walk worthy of our calling.
LOVE IS NOT RESENTFUL
Resentment means feeling indignant about the perception of being insulted, injured, or wronged. Resentment can be caused by envy, jealousy, a public snub, being overlooked, injustice, or any number of other wrongs—real or perceived. The phrase “I resent that…” has become part of the modern lexicon. You hear it all the time. It ranks right up there with “I’m offended.” We have become a society of people who are quick to take offense and prone to harbor resentment, but slow to forgive. What is lacking in today’s culture is grace.
Resentment is a destructive feeling. Like hate and envy, it corrodes the vessel that contains it. This is why we are told in Ephesians 4:31 to put away our resentment and bitterness. Resentment hurts the people who harbor it more than those it is directed at. Have you ever known someone who refused to let go of a perceived snub or some other kind of wrong done to them? I certainly have. A friend of mine in college—Joseph—once nominated another friend—Patrick—for a student award and Patrick received it. During the award ceremony, Patrick remembered to thank everyone except Joseph, our friend who made the nomination.
Understandably, Joseph felt snubbed. Unfortunately, he responded with resentment instead of grace. After the ceremony, Joseph refused to even speak to Patrick in spite of the fact his friend apologized profusely several times for his oversight. For weeks afterward, Joseph could talk of nothing else. His resentment at being snubbed monopolized his every waking moment. It was eating him up. Joseph’s resentment became like a cancer that grew in him and metastasized. Instead of easing the resentment, time only increased it.
I lost touch with Joseph and Patrick after we graduated from college and went our separate ways. Then, years later I ran into Joseph in the Atlanta airport. We had barely begun to reminisce when he brought up the subject of the snub at the awards ceremony. He told me Patrick had contacted him many times trying to rekindle the friendship, but he had steadfastly refused to talk with him. This was the last time I ever saw Joseph, but I still remember what he said as we shook hands and parted ways. “I still resent being overlooked. He wouldn’t have gotten that award if it hadn’t been for me. I told Patrick after the ceremony I was never going to talk to him again. I haven’t and I won’t.”
It was easy to see which of the two parties was hurt most by resentment. While it is true that Patrick lost a friend, Joseph lost more than a friend; he also lost his peace of mind. All he gained from harboring resentment over a minor and unintentional snub was inner turmoil. His friend had apologized and asked for forgiveness on several occasions. However, there was no forgiveness in Joseph’s heart because the grace that should have resided there had been replaced by resentment.
LOVE IS NOT HAPPY TO INDULGE IN WRONG DOING
Have you ever known someone who seemed happy to indulge in wrong doing? When we indulge, we are choosing to do something that is not good for us. As a youngster, I knew a kid who seemed to love indulging in wrong doing. He stole mail out of people’s mail boxes in December looking for money that might have been put in Christmas cards. He stole candy and gum from the local drug store. He liked to take our bicycles and hide them from us. Pulling pranks on our teachers was a daily indulgence for him. Not surprisingly, before we were even out of the elementary grades, he had already been placed in what at the time was called “reform school.”
It is clear from Scripture we are to avoid wrong doing, not happily engage in it. James 4:17 states clearly that we are sinning when we know the right thing to do but fail to do it. John 8:44 calls people who delight in wrong doing sons of the devil. There are, of course, people who are just mean-spirited and who, as a result, delight in trying to get away with behavior they know is wrong. But it is more often the case that people who choose to indulge in wrong doing are simply giving in to some self-serving motive. They have a perception of gain that outweighs their reluctance to make what they know are bad choices.
Think about it. Why do we choose to eat just one more donut when we know we shouldn’t? The allure of its aroma and the promise of its taste overpower our self-discipline and we make a bad choice. Why do some people still smoke when they know the toxic effect it has on them? Why do some people drink too much, eat too much, or use drugs? Out of self-indulgence, greed, lust, envy, misguided ambition, or other nefarious motives, people do lots of things they know they shouldn’t.
We all do things we shouldn’t from time to time. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with the phenomenon of indulging in wrong doing. In Romans 7:15 Paul states: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Yes, we all sin and fall short, but it is not the occasional sinful indulgence—wrong doing for which we seek forgiveness—that is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 13. Rather, it is being happy in our wrong doing that is proscribed in this chapter of Scripture.
When we take delight in wrong doing, we have veered from a Godly path, the only path that leads to a life of significance. Therefore, do not delight in sin. Doing so is the way of Satan. Christ gives us a better way. He wants us to admit our failings, ask for forgiveness, and atone for the wrongs we commit. He died on the cross to give us the option of doing these things.
LOVE IS TRUTHFUL
Few things in life hurt more than being lied to. When someone lies to you or when you lie to them, the foundation of your relationship is ripped away. Being lied to is like undergoing an amputation without anesthetic, at least emotionally. This is because a lie is a betrayal of trust. Human relationships are built on trust, and lies sever trust just as completely as an amputation severs a limb. Further, lies are told without anesthetic. Without trust there can be no loving relationship between two people, and this is the kind of relationship God expects of us. He expects us to love our neighbor, and by “neighbor” God means fellow human beings. Telling the truth is so important God included it in the Ten Commandments.
The Bible is replete with other admonitions to tell the truth. Consider God’s words in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in truth.” Psalm 15:2-3 admonishes us to walk without blame and speak the truth. Psalm 34:13 warns us to avoid speaking deceitfully. These are just a few of the references to truthfulness in Scripture. There are many more. Clearly, if we want to walk worthy of our calling and live lives of significance, we must be truthful.
The opposite of telling the truth is lying. Lying is making an untrue statement with the intention of deceiving for a self-serving purpose. This is lying by commission. We might lie in this way to protect ourselves from the consequences of wrong doing, for personal gain, or out of other questionable motives. For example, when someone steals but claims he didn’t, he is lying to protect himself from the consequences the law will impose. When someone lies about her education or experience, she is lying for personal gain—probably a good job. When a child lies to his mother about sneaking cookies out the cookie jar, he is lying to protect himself from punishment. When a student lies to a teacher about cheating on a test, she is lying to avoid receiving a failing grade. These are all examples of lies by commission.
We can also lie by omission. This involves withholding pertinent information with the intention of deceiving for a self-serving purpose. When a witness in court knows the answer to a question but claims he doesn’t, he is lying by omission. Withholding the truth is the same as making false statements. Both are lying. It is important to understand the full definition of lying because in any discussion of truthfulness, a difficult question always arises: “Is it ever right to lie?” What people who ask this question typically want to know is this: Is it acceptable to make an untrue statement to protect others?
Debating this question is like peeling an onion. There are a lot of layers and each one brings new tears. I have debated the issue of acceptable lies many times. In almost every case, someone will ask if we are lying to our children if tell them Santa Clause is real or give them the unvarnished truth about where babies come from. With these kinds of examples, I always respond that a little common sense is in order and I am sure the questioner can figure out what to tell children. But other examples are not so easy.
Cast your mind back in time and assume you live in a country invaded by the Nazis in World War II. Your next-door neighbor and life-long friend is a Jew. To protect your neighbor from the death camps, you hide him in your basement. One day a Gestapo officer pounds on your front door and demands to know if you are hiding a Jew. Does the Ninth Commandment require you to give up your neighbor to certain death in a gas chamber by telling this evil Nazi official the truth? I don’t think so. Yes, your intention would be to deceive the Gestapo officer, but what about your motives? In deceiving a Nazi official do you have self-serving motives? Are you seeking personal gain or some kind of advantage? No, your motives are pure. You are trying to save a neighbor’s life. If lying to protect someone from evil is a sin, it is certainly a forgivable sin.
This, of course, is an extreme example. Telling the truth must be the rule and situations such as this one the exception. The problem with making exceptions to rules is that if we are not careful over time exceptions can become more common than the rule. When I counsel people who are struggling with telling the truth, my advice is always the same: Seek to tell the truth in every situation. If circumstances appear to warrant making an exception to this rule, pray for guidance and make sure your motives are truly pure. Even when the truth you have to deliver is potentially hurtful or unwelcome, the truth is still in order. It should be delivered with tact, but it should be delivered nonetheless.
Lying hurts more than just the person who is lied to. It also hurts the liar, sometimes in ways he did not anticipate. When I was a youngster, I participated in a city league track meet. We were well into the meet when our star high-jumper injured his leg and could no longer compete. The coach looked around frantically for someone to take his place. A kid I will call Donald stepped forward and volunteered. The coach asked him if he had ever done the high jump before and Donald claimed he had, many times. Donald had recently transferred in from another school, so we didn’t know him well. He was quite good at the long jump so when he claimed to be an accomplished high-jumper, the coach believed him. He put Donald on the roster to replace our injured star.
As soon as the high jump competition began, it was obvious Donald had lied to the coach about his ability and experience. Donald wasn’t just bad at the high jump, he was terrible. Almost any one of us on the track team could have done better. We were trounced in the high jump and, as a result, ended up losing a track meet we could have won with just a mediocre showing in the high-jump event. It turned out that by lying Donald hoped to enhance his status in the eyes of the coach and his teammates. While it is understandable for the new kid on the team to want to earn the respect of his teammates and coach, Donald clearly failed to think through his approach.
Because his lie led indirectly to our team losing the track meet, Donald became a pariah among the rest of us on the team. Later, in ninth grade, Donald was accused of cheating on a test. In reality he was innocent, but because he had lied to our coach during the track meet two years earlier, the teacher—who happened to be that same track coach—didn’t believe him. As a result, Donald was punished for something he did not do. Years later, after college, Donald applied for a job he really wanted. He had the perfect credentials for the job and would have been good at it, but there was a problem. The individual doing the hiring had been a member of our track team all those years ago when Donald lied to the coach about being an accomplished high-jumper. He turned Donald down because he doubted his trustworthiness. As Donald learned, a lie can continue to haunt you for a long time. Fortunately, the obverse is also true.
A student at the college where I teach—I will call her Regina—fell behind in her assignments and decided to catch up by cheating. She “borrowed” a student’s work from a previous semester, copied it, and turned it in as hers. The paper she copied turned out to be a good one and Regina made an “A” on it. But then she began to feel guilty about her lie. Regina approached the professor after class and admitted everything. She told him the unvarnished truth. This professor was a part-timer whose full-time job was in a local accounting firm. Unsure of how to handle the situation, he approached me for advice. I recommended he should give the student a failing grade on the assignment, which he did. Fortunately for her, Regina’s other grades on class assignments were high enough that she still passed the course and eventually completed her degree in accounting.
When she began applying for jobs, the first person she encountered in an interview was her old professor. He was now the senior partner in the accounting firm in question. Certain the professor would remember the cheating incident, Regina arranged other interviews. Consequently, she was surprised when the senior partner—her old professor—called a couple days later and made her an excellent offer. When Regina claimed she had already given up all hope of securing a job with his firm because of the cheating incident years ago in his class, the senior partner/professor surprised her. He said, “Regina, it is because of that incident that I want to hire you. Yes, you cheated on an assignment but even after I gave you an “A” on it you came forward and admitted to the wrong doing. You chose to tell the truth when you didn’t have to and in spite of the consequences you knew would follow. That convinced me you are a truthful, trustworthy person. The kind I want in my firm.”
A large part of walking worthy of your calling and living a life of significance involves treating people in ways that please God. In 1 Corinthians 13, He gives us specific guidance on how to do this. God wants us to be loving, kind, patient, and truthful with others. He wants us to avoid envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, resentment, indulging in wrong doing, and insisting on always getting our way. In other words, God wants us love our neighbors as ourselves. This is easy to say, but difficult to do. However, those who are intentional in making the effort to love their neighbors as themselves are walking a path that leads to a life of significance.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com