Love, Evil, and Truth
“[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (v. 6).- 1 Corinthians 13:5–6
If anything is considered unloving in the modern West, it is the confrontation of sin. Too many people have bought into the idea that the worst thing a person can do is disapprove of another person’s behavior (except in the case of sins such as murder or abuse). Thus, things that were once regarded as shameful are paraded in the streets as people call good evil and evil good.
True love, unsurprisingly, rejects these assumptions. Our righteous Creator never overlooks evil, and He is love (Ex. 34:6–7; 1 John 4:7–8). Thus, those who rightly love others cannot rejoice in any wrongdoing, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:6. Love rejoices only in what pleases God. It is not loving to ignore or downplay evil, and it is desperately wicked to call good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20).
Because love rejects wrongdoing, it is also slow to evaluate motives. It does not hesitate to judge the sinfulness of particular acts when such sinfulness is evident, but it does not assume the worst about people. When misunderstandings arise or we run into difficulties with other people, love takes time to understand the other person before it judges his intent. After all, it is wrong to impute evil motives to those who may not actually have them, so for love to reject wrongdoing, it must not hastily attribute ill intent to people. This is not to endorse naivete. Scripture calls us to exercise discernment and to act quickly when there is clear evidence of destructive motives behind particular actions. We are to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). Good discernment, however, requires a certain impartiality, which is possible only if we are slow to evaluate motives, especially those of people whom we do not know well. Uncovering the truth can take time, and love will take that time since it rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).
Because love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, it does not find joy in the evil deeds committed by us or by others. We must be careful here, for we can think that we are not rejoicing in wrongdoing simply because we do not celebrate evil and yet find a perverse joy in wrongdoing by gossiping about it. As fallen creatures, we love to hear salacious stories and even to know all the details about the sins of other people. But love does not pry into the sins of others unless one is actually affected by them. Love keeps private affairs private and does not spread rumors about other people, instead allowing the elders of the church to deal with issues of discipline.
Passages for Further Study
Proverbs 17:20; 21:23