Today, we begin part 13 of our series on being “Imitators of Love” where we are learning more about the nature & characteristics of God by looking at the nature & characteristics of love. What we have been camping on most recently is that great love chapter, First Corinthians chapter 13, and looking at Paul’s description of both love and God, who is love.
In light of this, First Corinthians 13:4-8 describes Him like so – “GOD suffers long, and GOD is kind. GOD does not envy; GOD does not parade HIMSELF, HE is not puffed up; HE does not behave rudely, HE does not seek HIS own, HE is not provoked, HE thinks no evil; HE does not rejoice in iniquity, but HE rejoices in the truth; HE bears all things, HE believes all things, HE hopes all things, HE endures all things. GOD never fails …”
Most recently, we looked at verse 6 that teaches us what love does and does not rejoice in.
Now we learned that to “rejoice” simply means to be glad, cheerful, or to get excited about something. So if the apostle Paul is talking about love’s characteristics, then there are obviously certain things that love will and will not become glad or excited about. Yes, it will rejoice with those who rejoice by getting happy when good things happen to them, and at the same time, it will certainly not rejoice when bad things happen to them. So what we learned from this is that love for others will essentially do the same thing as love for one’s self – it will get happy when good things happen to others like people get happy when good things happen to themselves.
We saw, specifically, what Paul said that love does not rejoice in is “injustice or unrighteousness,” which means that love certainly does not get joy out of seeing others being done wrong. Which showed us a lot about the heart of God and how His pet peeve is when His people do not practice justice & righteousness.
But our greatest takeaway from this is how God practiced this towards us, and how we were the widows that He provided for by actually marrying us and how we were the orphans that He cared for by adopting us into His family! So God absolutely rejoices in justice!
But Paul also stated specifically that love DOES rejoice in truth. So we looked over at Third John and saw the heart of God through the apostle John when he said in Third John 1-4, “The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
In this opening greeting, we noted the constant echo of the terms “love, joy, and truth” in these opening four verses of Third John. So this is God’s heart! He loves to see His children walking in the truth, which includes when His kids are prospering on all fronts, when they are healthy, and when they are growing up spiritually. He gets no joy out of us walking in injustice & unrighteousness – meaning, He never takes pleasure when we are not experiencing Third John 2. No, in His love, God wishes His best on us, and He rejoices when His best is experienced. Amen.
Now in verse 7, we have what seems to be Paul just quickly giving us a few more characteristics of love on his way to wrapping up his point. In it, he says, “(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” So what’s the common denominator found in this verse? It’s the repeated phrase – “all things.”
Now in the original language, we don’t find the word “things.” It was added by the translators to help us understand better what was being communicated. However, I don’t believe adding this word exactly does that here. No, the phrase “all things” can leave the impression that we are to bear, believe, hope, and endure EVERYTHING, and that’s just not true.
For example, its obvious that God does not expect us to believe all things that we hear when he spent a good portion of the New Testament warning us that some of the things we hear are false and are to not be believed. Also, it’s also very clear that we are not to endure everything also because in doing so, we might be putting up with and tolerating things that the Lord certainly doesn’t want us enduring, namely the kingdom of darkness and its works.
No, it’s important to understand that love is what is being described here. So the subject matter is how love behaves towards the objects of its love. Therefore, this verse is not just a blanket statement that we are to put up with everything or to believe everything we hear. This much is obvious. However, when it comes to how we are loving others, these are things that love will always do.
So let’s start this week breaking down the four terms we have in this verse – this week by covering “bears & endures”, and next week by covering “believes & hopes.”
BEARS OR COVERS?
When Paul starts off by saying, “(Love) bears all things”, what he was literally saying was that love “covers & conceals.” It describes protecting someone by covering, concealing, or hiding them. In fact, the root word for this one that Paul used in First Corinthians 13:7 was the word for the roof of a house. Therefore, the idea of both covering & protecting is what is being indicated.
So this is what love does? It covers. It hides. It shelters. Therefore, it keeps and protects. Like a roof of a building is designed to do this for us physically.
Now this requires some explanation because in some ways, hiding or covering something might not be love at all. For example, if I am concealing truth in certain situations, I might be doing the exact opposite of what love demands because truth is not to be hidden. So I have to determine whether love would dictate whether or not speaking the truth in a situation is appropriate.
Now I know there is a large contingent of people who believe that speaking the truth is always appropriate, but that’s not necessarily true either. There are times where love will zip its lips, be slow to speak, etc. and not broadcast something even though it is 100% sure that it’s true.
The way you know when it is appropriate to speak the truth is found in Ephesians 4:15 when Paul taught us how we are to speak the truth in love. So how does this show us when we are to speak the truth? It’s when it can be done in love. In other words, ask yourself the question when you have the thought to speak something you know is true – Who am I loving by saying this, and how am I loving them? Asking this question can keep us from sharing things that aren’t what wisdom would have us share at the moment.
You see, one characteristic of love is that it will cover sin. In quoting from the Book of Proverbs, First Peter 4:8 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”
So love does cover. It will conceal. It will hide some things. That means that true, fervent love for one another is not going to expose sin; it’s going to cover it. And what are those things? The apostle Peter says, “a multitude of sins.” No, not just some sin, but a “multitude” of them. That means that it doesn’t matter how many times they have committed the same sin or how many times they have even sinned against us, love will cover their multitude of sins.
Regarding this latter point, this reminds of what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew chapter 18 when Peter asked the Lord how many times they must forgive their offending brother, “up to seven times?” Well, the Lord’s response of “up to seventy times seven” sounds a lot like love forgiving a “multitude” of sins because seventy times seven is certainly a multitude of offenses.
One of the greatest Biblical examples I can think of that illustrates this is found the story of Noah: You know, after the flood, the Bible teaches us something about Noah and his sons.
Genesis 9:20-27 says, “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.’”
Now I want you to notice what this illustrates – Noah made a mistake and was “uncovered” as a result. So when his youngest son, Ham, discovered his nakedness, what did he do? He went and told his brothers. No, he didn’t attempt to cover the multitude of his father’s sin, but he exposed him even further. But the other two sons, Shem and Japheth, when they heard it, went into his tent backwards with a garment to cover him with. Yes, the Bible says that their faces were turned away and they did not see their father’s nakedness. This is symbolic of how nobility and honor will not focus on other’s shortcomings & mistakes but will choose to cover their sin. Amen!
And notice what the result of this situation was: When Noah woke up and learned what had happened, he both blessed Shem and Japheth and cursed the son of Ham, Canaan. Isn’t that interesting that Noah did not curse Ham, but the fruit of his body, Canaan? That teaches me that people who don’t abide by this principle of love that covers can see the fruit of their life cursed as a result. In other words, the fallout of not covering the multitude of other’s sins can be us experiencing an uphill battle when it comes to the fruit we want to produce for the Lord.
I say this to simply say that it is in our best interest to cover other’s sins & mistakes and not go around broadcasting them to other people. I mean, how could this be love anyway? No, we wouldn’t want others doing that to us, right? No, we would hope that others wouldn’t go around exposing our flaws to others. And why? Because we love ourselves. So this is a call to do to others what we would have them do to us. Amen?
STAYING UNDER POWER
Now let’s move on to the other phrase in this verse that I wanted to “cover” (no pun intended) …
Then Paul says at the end of verse 7 that love “endures all things.” Now this one sounds a little more like what love “bears all things” seemed to mean, and this time, I believe the translators got it right.
You see, the word the apostle Paul used here was the Greek word hupomeno, and this word was a staple in the New Testament. In fact, in the early New Testament church, this virtue was treasured and highly valued by Christians.
You’ve read about it – it’s the virtue most often translated “patience” in the New Testament. However, while patience is an “okay” translation, endurance is a much better one because the word literally means to “remain under” which denotes perseverance and endurance. So because of this, some have called this virtue, “staying under power.”
So, like say you have a lot of pressure put on you, yet you don’t let that difficult thing move you, but you endure it by resolving to “stay under” it. Therefore, I see endurance as more of the picture being painted by this word rather than patience. And one of the reasons I think this is important to understand is because, when it comes to love, there’s a little difference between being patient with people and enduring them.
You see, how many times have we quit on a person in our lives because we simply didn’t feel we could take any more. So, like with the definition of hupomeno, we were unwilling to “stay under” the things that they did and just the way they were. Some of us have quit jobs because of a boss who was difficult to endure. Some of us have left churches because of parishioners who were difficult to get along with. Even some of us have left spouses because they were simply intolerable. Now some of those situations might certainly have been acceptable to move on from, but I think that in a lot of cases, we might not have abided by this attribute of love that “endures all things.” The fact of whether or not we are guilty of this from decisions made in the past is not the point. The point is, however, that from this day forward we ask the Lord to direct us into when it is time to endure in love or move on from the situation.
I’ve just learned in many situations how a lot of times when I was ready to throw my towel in on a person that by simply enduring through the tough seasons, we were able to make it through them and see a lot of fruit as a result. Therefore, those feelings & emotions that we experience when we are at odds with a person are not to be trusted. They will even try to trick us into thinking God is leading us to do this or that, which usually is in line with what our flesh would want in the situation. But the fact is, feelings are fickle, and emotions are not to be trusted. Just ask the Holy Spirit within you, “What would love do here?”
Just know this – We live in a world full of different people. How many of you know that people are people, and very few of them are like you? This is because, at birth, we were wired by God a certain way and also because we’ve been molded by life’s circumstances. Therefore, since we are all different, it can be a little difficult handling other folk’s personalities. Well, that’s where this attribute of love comes in. Love “endures” all those people that our flesh has a hard time tolerating.
But don’t mistake this as us simply putting up with or tolerating other people. While that might be what we need to do at times, the key is found in coming to know & understand those who irritate us. In other words, enduring people is better than being intolerant, but the best way is to actually love them, which enables you to endure them.
For example, it’s kind of how most of us “endure” the irritating things our own flesh & blood might do more than we put up with a stranger who does the same thing. Why do we do that? It’s because we actually love our family members, and strangers, not so much.
But the truth is that the more you come to get to know the one you are having to “endure,” the more you can stir up the right kind of thinking to go from just tolerating them to actually loving them. Yes, I believe our understanding of others can equip us with the necessary compassion, sympathy, and empathy to, in love, endure all the things they do that offend us. Why? Because we are not just seeing the way they are now or what they are currently doing to us; we see why they are the way they are, and why they might be doing the things they are to us. This has helped me tremendously.
COVERS ALL & ENDURES FOREVER
But do you know what else helps us both endure others and cover their sins? It’s the truth that Love Himself has had to endure plenty of things with us too and also cover a multitude of our sins! I know none of us probably thinks that there is much to be endured with us – with others, certainly; but with us, maybe.
No, get ready for another truth bomb here: The Lord has endured as much with you as He has with that person you have a hard time enduring. So if I live in that reality instead of being puffed up to think that I am better than those who irritate me, I’ll live in the sober reality that I need as much mercy as they do and will have an easier time tolerating their shortcomings. Likewise, if I live in the awareness of how much the Lord has had to cover in my life, then I will be more apt to cover other’s sins, right? It’s tight but it’s right.
Yes, like we’ve been learning throughout this series, if these are things that love does, then they are something God does. Yes, GOD covers a multitude of our sins and GOD endures forever! Let’s first look at how God covers all …
Aren’t you thankful for this – that God doesn’t air out all of our dirty laundry before people and how He doesn’t remind us of our failures & shortcomings? He really doesn’t.
One of our best examples of this are the very Scriptures that He inspired … Have you ever noticed as you read the Bible how God does not magnify the mistakes of His elect. Sure, He states truth & facts of the shortcomings of them, but the spirit behind it is different. It’s not what stands out.
Like for example, we see in the story of Abraham the fact that he lied to save his own neck when asked if Sarah was his wife. How many of you know that if a preacher did that today, it would have been on the cover of charisma magazine!?! How about David with how he committed adultery with another man’s wife and then had him murdered!?! That certainly would not have gotten that man of God any more speaking engagements, right? Then how about Peter? Sure, we see the weaknesses in this man, but what is it that we walk away seeing Peter as? The ROCK!
I could go through a lot of examples of this, but God, in the Scriptures, lauds His people more than He uncovers them. And that’s what we are to do as well – magnify their strengths and good works more than we uncover and expose their weaknesses and the bad things they do. Why? Because that’s what love does!
So for anyone who might have thought that God was bringing up your past and constantly reminding you of all the bad things you’ve done, that’s NOT Him. No, if love covers a multitude of sins, then that’s what God does too. Therefore, the condemnation & guilt that folks constantly carry around with them is not coming from God. No, He separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. He said our sins & lawless deeds He will remember no more. So if He has separated us from our sin and He is choosing to not remember them anymore, why on earth would He be the One reminding you of them? He ain’t!
No, the reason we “hear” about our sin on the inside of us is because of one of two things – either it’s the devil feeding us lies and doing what He does best, condemn, or it’s our own heart condemning us (See First John 3:20).
You see, some of the things we hear, feel, etc. are the product of what we believe in our heart. Like, for example, some of us have been trained by the world or religion that we ought to feel bad when we do something wrong, among other things. So when we miss it, our heart communicates things to us that are along the lines of our previous programming.
Then other things are straight from the pit of hell, through outside demonic sources. I’m not sure a lot of people realize this, but the devil will oftentimes speak things into our minds that can be misconstrued as our own thoughts. And one of his most favorite weapons of His warfare is condemnation. So those thoughts that come into our minds that remind us of our mistakes, which lead to guilt, are possibly from the devil.
But my point is this – they are NOT from God. That’s not to say that God never deals with the issue of sin and won’t convict us, but there’s a big difference between conviction & condemnation, and we best learn the difference. And why? Because God covers a multitude of sins and certainly doesn’t uncover us!
But why does He do this? Yes, it’s because He loves us, but more specifically, it’s because He seeks to protect us!
You see, one thing that is clear throughout the Scriptures is God’s desire to protect us. There are tons of Scriptures that clearly illustrate this, and even entire Psalms devoted to it (i.e. Psalm 91). But I don’t know if we always consider why God’s heart is to protect us; it’s because He loves us and that’s just what love does!
And while I’m not a big fan of the King James’ choice of words in First Corinthians 13:7, as we’ve seen, the way we think of the word “bears” is a little different than what the word he used indicates, this word does reflect part of what this word means.
You see, like a mama “bear”, God’s heart is to protect His cubs. Yes, His great love for us leads him to defend & protect. Amen!
But yes, since God is love, He certainly covers & protects, but He also endures all things with you and I. He does not quit on us when we act a fool. He doesn’t terminate His relationship with us when we annoy Him. No, He endures our inadequacies. He puts up with our flaws. He tolerates our mistakes. All because He loves us so! Oh, how He loves us!
What is the single most used “praise phrase” in the Bible? What is the statement we see repeated time and time again throughout the Scriptures where His people are praising Him? It is this – “For the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever.”
How many times is this in the Bible? A whole bunch! But I want you to notice what is contained in the “phrase of praise” – His mercy (which is the covenant love of the Lord) and how that steadfast love endures forever! That sounds a little to me like “love endures all things,” doesn’t it to you?
So in this true statement of praise – the Lord inspired His people to magnify two major parts of His nature – His goodness and His endurance.
So even though love “enduring” all things might be close to the last characteristic of love that Paul mentions in First Corinthians 13, it is one of the first things that we see God praised for in the Scriptures! Amen!