Love Thinks No Evil

One of the most challenging things in Paul’s portrait of love (1 Corinthians 13) is his statement that love “thinks no evil” (verse 5, NKJV).

The verb “thinks” here is an accounting term for making an entry on a ledger; the idea is to “take account” of something, or dwell on it. The “evil” in view is not wickedness in general, but rather the evil that others do to us. Paul is telling us that love doesn’t keep an account of wrongs suffered from others. Love “is not resentful” (RSV), “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV), “does not brood over wrongs” (Weymouth). And that is a challenge!

Love doesn’t “keep score” when it comes to insults and injuries. But many of us do. And our score-keeping is usually worst in our closest relationships—husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends, and fellow saints. When there’s a problem with the other person, we dust off our memories of his past transgressions and use them as weapons against him. We say things like, “Well, what about that time you [insert mistake here]?” or even, “You always [insert insensitive action here]!” We try to shame him into surrender by humiliating him with his faults. But in the process we slowly destroy that person’s trust in us. And worse, we do exactly what God says love doesn’t do.

“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Most of us are eager to make peace when someone has wronged us. We should be. The problem is that we often make peace without really forgiving. Instead, we file the incident away in the recesses of our mind with a little red flag on it. We store it up as ammunition in our arsenal of personal defense. That way we can bring it out and wave it in the other person’s face if he ever does anything like that again.

But note that forgiveness like God’s is what the Spirit commands (“just as God in Christ has also forgiven you”). God promised, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). When God forgives our sin, He views it as if it never happened. As we would say, “forgive and forget.” That’s what we have to learn to do. And while it may be impossible to literally erase the memory of what someone has done, true forgiveness enables us to treat it as if it never happened.

And while we’re on the subject, Solomon has some wise instruction for us: “Do not take seriously all words which are spoken, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:20-21). In other words, don’t be overly sensitive about what others say (or do) to you. The forgiving spirit of love doesn’t keep a tally of every careless word or deed. It applies the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12), knowing that all of us sometimes say or do insensitive things without meaning to hurt anyone. Instead of getting bent out of shape over every little thing, let’s try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. A grudge is a mighty heavy load to carry around.