Sometimes it is impossible for me to be happy for others. Not because I am a selfish and uncaring pig, (although at times I can be) but because they are happy about something that I can’t be.
I think of the Christian friend who was excited about being asked to lead a Bible study, I wanted to rejoice with him, but the knowledge that just a year earlier he had been repeatedly unfaithful to his wife, had serious problems with finances and debt and that he still had questionable theology made it rather difficult to be happy!
There have been many times when weddings brought me sadness. Marriages like my mother's third, which paired two people who had not dealt with the mental illness or substance abuse that had caused the previous relationships to fail, or others where a Christian had abandoned their values and beliefs and married outside their faith. They wanted me to be happy for them, but as a person for whom faith is a priority I could not.
This is the reality for people who are true Christians. There are things that other people will rejoice in and celebrate that will make us sad. On these occasions those outside the faith are apt to call us mean and judgmental, to claim that we are prejudiced, bigoted and unloving.
According to the Apostle Paul the opposite is true. Sometimes not rejoicing with others is the embodiment of love! Paul wrote, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” This words had deep meaning to Paul's audience, as earlier in his letter to Corinth he had given them rather stern correction. In the first verses of 1 Corinthians 5 he wrote, “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother.You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 NLT
The church apparently was proud of themselves for being tolerant and accepting! Instead of realizing the truth that there are behaviors that are contrary to God’s law and harmful to those who engage in them, instead of correcting someone whose life was a moral train wreck, they were acting as if everything was okay! Paul, as someone who truly loved the church, would have none of it. He held them accountable. Paul made it clear that love does not accept everything or rejoice in everything. Love rejoices in the truth.
Something to consider! Here is hoping we will love others enough to be truthful!
This is the 9th post in a series on the definitions of love given in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. If you have a story of a time loving someone required you to make a stand, let me know in the comments! I ask you to remember that the only way others know about this blog is if you share it!