My wife, Betty, knows not to believe everything I say. It’s not because I lie or try to deceive her, but I do tend to joke and play with words. For instance, we’ll be driving down the road, and she’ll ask, “where is the gas at?” I’ll often respond, “It’s back there,” pointing in the general direction of the gas tank. What she meant is how much fuel is in the tank. It’s one of my little games, taking the literal and making it figurative or taking the figurative and making it literal.
Paul’s next hallmark of love from 1 Corinthians 13 is love “believes all things” (NASB), love “never loses faith” (NLT), and “always trusts.” (NIV) Two words which cover the entirety of faith, belief, trust, and totality. Which, in all honesty, causes us some gigantic conflicts. Do we REALLY believe all things? Do we REALLY trust others completely out of love? To practically embrace this hallmark of love requires wisdom.
Love does not require us to be gullible or to swallow every word spoken by another with the same faith and trust we place in God. People lie, people deceive, people advance fake stories to make other folks look bad. For instance, ten or so years ago, a false report about the FCC considering blocking all Christian broadcasting circulated in the Christian community. Enough folks contacted the FCC that they created a special page on their website just to debunk the myth. So how does that square with “love believes all things?” If we can’t believe all things, then how are we supposed follow this hallmark of love, which says that we should?
I think we can break it down this way. Love believes all by giving folks the benefit of the doubt. When we don’t know if someone truthful, we lean towards accepting their word. Love believes by hearing what others are saying but has the space to discount their conclusions. I practice this at work when folks report a problem. I listen and ask questions. I believe their report but I know they may not have all the facts, may not be telling me everything, and sometimes are presenting a wrong conclusion. Lastly, when someone’s word cannot be trusted, love believes what God has to say about them. God’s love and grace falls on the just and the unjust. There’s always hope for a changed heart, but that is our next “love is.”
There are also times when this hallmark of love asks us to suspend our own conclusions. Times when the evidence we see demands a guilty verdict, but the other person declares their innocence. I’m talking about those interpersonal judgments we all make at times. Sometimes love requires us to believe someone even if all credible evidence is against it. If we can’t believe the facts presented, can we believe the motive? If we can’t believe the motive can we believe God’s desire for them?
So, like I said, this hallmark of love requires wisdom and trusting God above all else. It’s not a command to gullibility but wisdom, transparency, listening, and hope. Love always trusts, never loses faith, believes all things.