We are all different. I know that is a shock to some of you. Each one is us is a unique, never to be repeated, complex stew of many factors. Our ethnicity, heritage, age, experiences, likes and dislikes, foibles of personality, education, and learned responses all combine to make us who we are. Like it or not. This doesn’t mean we’re stuck with who we are, but changing who we are is another topic for another time. Today, our concern is what we do with those not like us – which would be basically everyone.
Continuing our review of 1 Corinthians 13, we encounter the phrase – (love) “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NASB95) Our focus is “bears all things.” Other translations render that verse as: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT) “Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, The Message) The language is even starker in the Greek and “bears all things” could be understood and “(love) endures all.” But what does that mean?
One Greek Lexicon defined “bears” as meaning “love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person.” We know when another person acts a certain way, they are not being evil, just being themselves as determined by the complex stew mentioned above. Enduring all things is challenging for all of us, but especially those who seek an ordered or controlled life. It’s hard to keep our ducks in a row when our family member, co-worker, or friend lets their ducks wander all over the place.
And here’s the other qualifier that requires tight-rope walking skills. What do we do about sin? Paul’s phrase has no qualifiers. It doesn’t say “endure some” or “bear whatever is not sin.” Paul says that love bears all. Do we then ignore sinful behavior in someone else? I don’t think so, for ignoring sin is not love. Or could it be?
There’s a verse in 1st John, which gives us a possible divide to know when to cover and when to speak. It’s one of those theologically challenging verses in that much is undefined, but it does give us a valuable marker. John writes, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” (1 John 5:16, NASB95) John doesn’t define what sins lead to death and what sins don’t. Other scriptures indicate that all sin leads to death, but other scriptures also identify variations of conscious concerning some sins.
So, here is the marker. Is the behavior we’re seeing in a friend, co-worker, or family member causing irreparable harm, death, or separation to themselves or others? Or is their behavior simply unwise, uninformed, or a matter of conscience? This is the grey area of walking out our faith in Jesus. There are no rules or set of laws which can adequately cover each and every incident and interaction. To do so would blanket the world with paper and still leave something out. I think Paul is inviting us to err on the side of love. On the side of bearing all things. There are many examples of God enduring our sin. Of covering or passing over our sin for a time. Call it love acting with grace. Even today, God is covering the sins I have yet to see as sin, whether still a part of who I am or something I did in my past. Those sins are covered in Christ, yet there is still the need to reconcile, repent, and find healing in my life from them. It’s kind of cliché, God is working on me, and He’s working on you too. You see, God’s love also endures all