LOVE DOES NOT REJOICE IN INIQUITY

Raymond Elliott

God is love and love is of God.  God is more than love but one of the great attributes of God is that He loves mankind and He desires that all men and women be saved (I John 4: 9-11; 2 Peter 3:9).  And if the love of God dwells within us, we love one another (I John 4:12).  While love has many positive characteristics, there are some negative characteristics of this God-like love and one is that love does not rejoice in the wrong doing of others.  In I Corinthians 13:4, 6 we read that “Love…does not rejoice in iniquity” (NKJV).  Other translations are now presented that will enable us to understand more fully this statement.  The Revised Standard Version, “it does not rejoice at wrong”.  McCord’s New Testament Translation, “does not rejoice in wrongdoing”.  The New International Version, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  Berry’s Interlinear Greek English New Testament translates I Corinthian 13:6 in this manner, “rejoices not at unrighteousness.”

The church of God at Corinth needed this lesson concerning the characteristics of love.  In chapter five we read of a brother who was living with his father’s wife (step-mother) and the church was not doing anything about it.  Rather, some were puffed up about the matter and seemed to enjoy the situation existing in the congregation.  The apostle Paul wrote them a rather stern rebuke and instructed them to deal with the problem in a scriptural manner.  This they did and the brother was restored to fellowship with God and the church (2 Corinthians 2).  The love of God in the hearts of the Corinthian disciples would have prevented their attitudes being what they were toward this brother and all the family involved.  Permit me to present an example of what I writing about concerning the Christian’s attitude toward a brother or sister who may be guilty of a public sin in their lives.  Several years ago while working with a congregation, a brother in Christ became involved in an illicit relationship with a woman.  This brother was married and had a family of his own.  This ungodly relationship went on for sometime before members of the local church learned about it.  When this adulterous relationship became known to the brothers and sisters of the local church, hearts were broken because all the members loved this brother.  It was a very personal matter with me because he was one of my closest friends and a dear brother in Christ and I loved him very much.  Do you think that any of us rejoiced in this brother’s sin? Of course we did not delight in his wrongdoing.  Rather we wept openly and begged this brother to repent of his sins which he eventually did and was restored to full fellowship with the Lord and the church.

I have intentionally reserved until now mentioning two translations of I Corinthians 13:5, 6.  Phillips translation is as follows, “It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people.”  The New English Bible, “does not gloat over other men’s sins.”  For example, a Baptist preacher in a nearby city has been accused by law officials of sexually molesting children.  Should we gloat over his sins simply because we may differ with him and his denomination over some biblical subjects?  It is a proven fact that scores of Catholic priests are pedophiles.  Should we gloat over this immoral situation because we cannot accept the organization of this religious entity as being acceptable to God?  How are we to deal with the terrible news that a sister in Christ has killed her husband for whatever reason?  Shall we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) or shall we delight in this horrible tragedy?  Shall we accuse the church collectively for her action?  The difference in how you treat this unfortunate tragedy will depend on whether or not the love of God dwells within your heart.  William Barclay in his commentary on the letters to the Corinthians writes the following concerning the passage of scripture in I Corinthians 13, “Love finds no pleasure in evil-doing.  It might be better to translate this that love finds no pleasure in anything that is wrong. It is not so much delight in doing the wrong thing that is meant, as the malicious pleasure which comes to most of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else (Emphasis mine, RE). It is one of the queer traits of human nature that very often we prefer to hear of the misfortunate of others rather than of their good fortune. It is much easier to weep with them that weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.  Christian love has none of that human malice which finds pleasure in ill reports.”

Individuals who gloat over the mistakes and sins of other people because of religious prejudice or for any other reason are not truly disciples of the Lord.  To be a Christian is to be Christ-like and to be Christ-like is to have the love of God in one’s heart.  And that measure of love in one’s heart prevents him/her from rejoicing in iniquity; delighting in evil and from gloating over another’s sins.