Summary: When I love like Jesus loves I am gratified when grace triumphs over guilt
Whenever I’m driving and someone goes whipping by me at well over the speed limit or is constantly cutting in and out of traffic or runs a red light, my immediate thought is “I sure hope there is a policeman in the area to catch that person”. And on those rare occasions when that actually happens, I take a great deal of delight that the other person has been caught and proclaim something to the effect that “there is justice after all.”
Of course when I’m the one violating the traffic laws, I want grace rather than justice. That was certainly the case several years ago when Mary and I were coming back from our vacation and driving back home from the Phoenix airport early one morning. As we went through Florence, a familiar route, I blew right through a stop sign that I thought I had remembered as being only a yield sign. But since there was only one car in sight about a ½ mile away, I figured I was OK.
Turns out that one car was a Florence police car and the officer inside turned on his flashing lights and pulled me over. At that point I was certainly praying for grace and not justice. Fortunately, after asking a few questions and running my plates and my driver’s license the officer let us go on our way with just a warning to drive carefully the rest of the way home.
My guess is that I’m not the only one who wants justice for others when they do wrong, but who wants grace when I am the offender. When that involves a driver that I don’t know, it’s probably not a big deal. But when I allow that same attitude to infiltrate my relationships with people I do know, then I’m probably not going to love like Jesus loves and I need to change my mindset. That is exactly what we’ll see together this morning.
As we’ve done every week in this series, we’ll begin in 1 Corinthians 13. The next phrase we find there is in verse 6:
it [love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
(1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV)
This morning, rather than defining the terms that Paul uses here precisely, I think it’s more helpful to give you a sense of what they mean.
“does not rejoice at wrongdoing” =
“does not take pleasure when others fall into sin”
The idea here is that when I truly love others, I don’t find pleasure when they are accused of sin or even when it is proven that they are guilty. To use my previous example, it means that if I really loved like Jesus I wouldn’t get so much satisfaction when the police catch someone else violating the traffic laws.
Obviously, I am not suggesting, nor is Paul, that there isn’t a need for justice. But Biblical love mourns, and not rejoices, over sin that produces a need for justice. And this is not just a New Testament idea, either. We see the same concept in Proverbs in the Old Testament:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
(Proverbs 24:17 ESV)
“rejoices with the truth” =
“takes pleasure in the truth of God’s grace”
The verb “rejoice” in this phrase is actually a slightly different word that the one in the first part of this verse that is also translated “rejoice”. In Greek, this verb has an added prefix that means “together with” and that suggests an intimate connection. In the New Testament words with that prefix are almost always used to describe an intimate connection with Jesus – “crucified with” (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20), “buried with” (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12), “raised up with” and “seated with” (Ephesians 2:6)
The fact that Paul uses that verb to describe how we are to respond to truth is quite appropriate given that the Biblical concept of truth is so much deeper that the way we use that word in English. We tend to apply that word to a set of facts to indicate that they are “correct”. But in the Bible, truth is not about correct statements, facts, numbers, or scientific conclusions. It is about relationships.
That is why Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Truth is not merely a concept; it is a person - God dwelling among us in the person of Jesus. And it is in that Truth that God has extended His grace to us. So truth is the embodiment of God’s grace.
Jesus obviously loves like that all the time because that kind of grace-based love is embodied in who He is. This morning we’ll take a look at a passage where that kind of love is most clearly on display. That account begins in the last verse of John chapter 7 and continues through the first 11 verses of chapter 8. It’s probably a familiar passage for many of you.