IMITATORS OF LOVE
PART 11 – THINK NO EVIL
So this week, I want to pick back up on our current study entitled “Imitators of Love” where we are learning about God’s loving nature. We have based this on the apostle Paul’s instructions of imitating God as dear children from Ephesians 5:1, where we see the high calling of every believer—to be like God.
But what we are doing is looking at verses that teach us how we ought to be loving one another with the understanding that these instructions/commandments must be the same way that God loves us.
So, several weeks ago, we started looking at what I consider to be the best section of Scriptures that teaches us about the characteristics of love – the great love chapter, First Corinthians chapter 13. And we started doing this with the understanding that since God is love, all of these things the apostle Paul teaches us that love does, describe to us God’s loving characteristics.
First Corinthians 13:4-8 teaches us how “love suffers long and is kind. (how) love does not envy; (how) love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (how it) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (how it) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (yes, how love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So we have been going through this list of the characteristics of love each week and what we have learned so far is …
LOVE THINKS NO EVIL
Now, let’s move on to the next thing we see the apostle Paul address about love. At the end of verse 5, He says that love “thinks no evil.”
Now a good question would be – how is this even possible? How is one able to “think NO evil”? For example, we read in the Bible more than once that Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for their “evil” ways, describing them with words like “liars, hypocrites,” and even “children of the devil." Well, that sounds like Jesus was certainly “thinking” some “evil” of these guys, right?
So how do we reconcile examples like this with the law of love that says we are not to even think evil of others much less call them out on their evil? Yes, how can we as Christians keep from thinking evil of others, especially when it is the Bible itself that talks about how evil exists in mankind? That seems contradictory. On top of that, I don’t think it is the Lord’s intention that we go around pretending that evil doesn't exist either.
No, this is where it is important that we understand how to look up the words the writer used in the original language, and also how to utilize other translations. In doing so, we can come to understand what was truly being conveyed here instead of letting whatever terminology our Bible uses determine our interpretation of it.
But before I get into what this phrase literally means, let’s consider a couple of things about the New King James Version’s translation of it:
You see, the fact that we are told that there is a certain way that love “thinks” is important—because, of course, dealing with our thought life and what is going on in our heart is something that is vital for our love walk.
So we’ve all heard of that old proverb principle in the world that says – “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.” Well, the Bible speaks of another element to this – “Think No Evil.” The reason being is because, as you are about to see, if love thinks no evil, then it’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible for it to see, hear, or speak evil.
The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 23:7 that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. So, if I’m thinking evil in my heart, then the Bible says that is what I will be. Plus, as the Lord Jesus taught us in His Sermon on the Mount, God views the things we allow in our hearts as being as bad as the actual transgression itself. Therefore, what is important is not just our outward behavior; it’s also what we are “thinking” in our heart. So “thinking” “evil” of others is certainly not something that love will do, because true love is genuine and not just interested in behaving in a loving way while having a heart full of evil thoughts. Amen?
Now if you know me, you know that one thing that I wholeheartedly ascribe to is dealing with our thought life. Statements like – “Where the mind goes the man will follow” and “The Battle is in the Mind” have been phrases I’ve uttered many times, and the reason is because I believe that this is what the Bible clearly teaches. Yes, I believe if we can control our thought life and only think on things that God says we are to think on, there is no devil in hell that can defeat us. Amen?
So when it comes to this statement that love thinks no evil, it makes sense because, if I can, first of all, control what I’m thinking in my mind, then I can control what gets into my heart. And if I can control what I’m thinking in my heart, then I can control my behavior.
Did you know that you cannot be tempted by what you don’t first think on? In Hebrews 11:15 we are taught this when we are told— “And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” What this verse is saying is that if one does call to mind something, then that’s when they have opportunity to go there. So what if they never thought about it? Well, by this verse, we understand that they won’t have the opportunity to do so. Thus, we have the truth that we cannot be tempted by what we don’t call to mind or think on. Amen.
So, if my mind is how I am tempted to do evil, then my mind must also be how I choose to love.
Let’s look at a verse where we see this played out. It’s found in Mark 12:30 where Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of them all was, and of course we know His response. He said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.”
So Jesus said that what God wants from us is our love, but He was more specific than that. He wanted us to love Him with all of four things:
But I think it’s interesting how Jesus equated “the mind” with everything else He mentioned. The mind is very important to God because He knows that it’s the battleground.
So my point is that if God wants us to love Him with all of our mind, then I’d say that one of the ways we do that is by loving others with all my mind. In other words, when I love others through thinking loving thoughts of them, then that’s a way I can fulfill this, the Greatest Commandment, for whatever I do to the least of these, I’ve done it unto Him. Amen?
KNOWING GOD’S THOUGHTS
So I obviously believe that dealing with our thought life is imperative, but do you know what I think we don’t talk enough about? It’s God’s thought life. What does He think on? What is His mind full of? I believe these are also important questions to answer. And why? It’s because if we come to understand how God thinks and what His mind is full of then we will know how we too ought to be thinking.
Now there is a large contingent of Christians out there who think this is impossible. Yes, they think we cannot know what God is thinking because, after all, His thoughts are above our thoughts, right? Well, let’s look at the verse where this line of thinking comes from because I believe we can learn a little something about what the Lord was saying there …
Sure, the Lord did say in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” But what we need to understand is that the Lord was not saying that to His people because He didn’t want them to know His ways and thoughts. He had just said to let the wicked man forsake His ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts (See verse 7), so when He goes on to say in the next couple of verses what He did, it’s clear that the ones whose God’s thoughts are higher than are those who were choosing wickedness & unrighteousness. Therefore, it’s not necessarily true to say that God’s thoughts and ways are too high for everyone. No, for us who choose His ways and thoughts above our own, there is access to them.
We know this because of what Isaiah went on to say immediately following this— He then said, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Notice how the Lord immediately describes how the natural things of rain & snow (that come from higher up in the heavens) come down to water the earth and give us the things we need. This, to me, illustrates how His higher thoughts & higher ways are not meant to be kept in the heavens above us. No, they are intended to be poured out on us for our benefit; not kept from us because we are beneath them. Amen?
And I just love how verse 11 goes on to describe how the Lord has chosen to pour out His ways & thoughts on mankind – It’s through His Word. This encompasses everything from His written Word to His prophetic Word.
But the main point we need to see here is that God’s thoughts & ways are not things we cannot know. No! God desires to pour out His mind on us, and He has done this through His Word. God’s thoughts are contained & can be known through His Word! Amen!
So we CAN know what God is thinking. Yes, we can come to understand His mind. In fact, the apostle Paul, when quoting from Isaiah, said, “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But then he went on to say, “But we have the mind of Christ.” (See First Corinthians 2:16). He had just said earlier in this chapter that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (See First Corinthians 2:9). But then in verse 10, he says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”
So church, under this new and better covenant, we can certainly know the mind of the Lord through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit living within us is the key to comprehending God’s thoughts—for He is the mind of Christ that we have.
WHAT GOD THINKS ON
So how does the Holy Spirit show us God’s thoughts? What does His Word reveal to us about what God is thinking on?
Well, when I consider this truth that God thinks on us, I’m immediately drawn to one of our most loved verses, Jeremiah 29:11. In this beloved verse of so many, we have God’s heart concerning the plans He has for us. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
First of all, I want you to notice that God is actually thinking about you and I … Did you know this – that the Lord actually thinks about us? Glory to God! We tend to spend more time talking about our own thought life and how we are to keep our minds set on Him, but did you know that God practices what He preaches? For example, He told us to set our minds on things above, right? (See Colossians 3:2) Well, He also does this, but He sets His mind on things below! Praise the Lord!
Psalm 139:17-18 says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand …” Wow! Now that is a lot of thoughts! And when David wrote this, he was referring to just the thoughts that God thinks of him personally! Glory to Jesus! And did you know that since God is no respecter of persons, His thoughts are just that precious and innumerable about you too?
Now most Christians do not have a problem believing that God is constantly considering them; what they do have a hard time believing, however, is that those thoughts are good and positive thoughts. But again, what does Jeremiah 29:11 say that He thinks about us? “For I know the thoughts I think toward you… thoughts of good and not of evil, of peace, to give you a future and a hope.” My brothers and sisters, God is not thinking evil about you! He is focusing on the good in you! And why? Because He loves you a whole lot more than you can possibly imagine! You see, this fact that we are constantly on His mind reemphasizes to us a very important truth, and that is that He loves us …
The Lord makes it clear in this oft quoted verse that the thoughts He is thinking towards us are good thoughts, not evil. They are thoughts of peace. In other words, He is not angry and focusing on all the bad things we do. If He were, He would be violating the very instructions He gave us in Philippians 4:8 when He, through the apostle Paul, told us to only think on positive things. No, saints, God is thinking only good of you. He is a wonderful Heavenly Father that treasures you in His heart and only desires the best for you. Let that truth penetrate your heart today.
You know, when we fall in love, one characteristic of that love is our minds become filled with that other person. We think about them all the time when we are at the height of that love. And why are we thinking so much of that person? It is because they are in our heart! Saints, God actually holds us in His heart! He does not just tolerate us or make Himself “have to” think good things about us. No, He thinks good thoughts about us because we hold a special place in His heart! In other words, we are important to Him because you do not rent space in your heart to people or things that are not important to you. No, what is in your heart is what is valuable to you! Therefore, we must be extremely valuable to the Lord if His heart and mind are so inclined towards us! Amen!
LOVE KEEPS NO ACCOUNT OF WRONGS
But back to this phrase “(love) thinks no evil.”
While it’s obvious that the Lord does not think evil of us, as I said earlier, this phrase is a little misleading. Certainly the idea of the mind plays a part in this, but actually this word “thinks” is a poor translation. It comes from the Greek word logizomai which means to credit, count, or consider. It was an accounting term that could be translated “to calculate.” So this phrase would be better translated “(love) does not keep a record or account of evil & wrongs” and this is actually how most translations translate this phrase.
So this is a very helpful piece of information for our love walk: You see, if I ever say or think something to the effect of – “You do this all the time!” or “This is the 3rd time you did that” – then I am not in love because why? Love isn’t counting. No, it’s not adding up and recounting all the times someone has done something.
But, as we learn from this that I am walking in love if I am not keeping count of others’ faults, this is also how God is towards us! He doesn’t keep a record of our faults! He doesn’t recall our mistakes! In fact, He is not even considering how many times you and I have missed it.
We have a lot of other Scriptures that substantiate this about God. Allow me to remind you of some of them. In fact, let me remind you of these verses by showing you how you and I should be reminding the enemy of these truths when he comes against our minds with his lies.
So the next time the enemy comes to you, trying to get you to “count & consider” your sins, do this. Say, “Mr. devil, since you are trying to get me to consider all of the bad things I have done, I want to take you to ‘accounting’ class and have you ‘add up’ the following:
Is that enough? So it is written in the mouth of multiple witnesses that I am one of the blessed whose lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are covered—of which the Lord will remember no more. He chooses not to remember my sins and blots out my transgressions for His name’s sake.”
Church, this is what God thinks of you and I. His thoughts for us that outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore are good thoughts, not evil ones. This is how love thinks, counting the good, true, and lovely things of the ones it loves. God thinks no evil; only good.