LOVE IS PURIFYING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Sometime back I was watching a basketball game between two college rival teams. Please don’t ask me which one I was rooting for. I don’t want my tires slashed! Nonetheless, a player on the rival team travelled. He just lost his balance. What was amazing to me is that the home crowd cheered at the top of their lungs, including me. This is nothing new and I’m sure you’ve seen it before and probably cheered too. The player was embarrassed. He dropped his head and slumped back to his seat. But I thought about it. We weren’t cheering for our player who made a basket. We weren’t cheering for our team that made a good play. We were cheering for a player on the opposite team who made a mistake and cost his team possession of the ball. If you really think about it, we were actually happy over someone’s mistake and misfortune! Sadly, this happens not just in sports but also in real life. Today’s message will not only expose this ugly sinful side in all of us but also give us the solution so we can truly love others the way God loves us. The message is titled: LOVE IS PURIFYING.
I Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Context: The Corinthian church was fraught with some of the worst kinds of sins. It was damaging the unity of the church. They couldn’t love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to confront them, to help them deal with those sins so they could love each other the way God loved them. By the way, when the Holy Spirit deals with us, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Now we come to another sin in this church – “rejoicing in iniquity.” We’ll try to understand that in a few moments but believe or not, it means feeling joy and cheering over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others.
Question: I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands this morning if you ever felt joy over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others. I’d hate to make a bunch of people lie at the same time in church. But would you agree that sin is deeper and uglier and more heinous than we pretend it is. The difference between the guy in prison and us is that he took the next step and by the grace of God we haven’t. Are you saved? Sometime people ask me – “What do I have to be saved from? Besides hell, the Devil, this life, yourself. This message will expose you to the “Resident Evil” inside you. It’ll show you why you need Christ to save you.
Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity.” First, the word for rejoice is “charei,” which carries the idea of being glad or taking pleasure in something. Second, “in iniquity” is the combination of the words “epi” = upon and “adikia” = wrongdoing, injury, injustice, or unrighteousness. Together they carry the idea of someone’s loss or wrong action. So “Love does not rejoice in iniquity” means love does not get joy because of someone’s injury or wrong doing.
What in the world was happening in the Corinthian church? Keep in mind that the Corinthian culture was a very competitive, status-seeking culture in the ancient world. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens unearthed 1500 inscriptions from the Roman period (44BCE – 276CE) that brag on self. Scholars note that boasting about self was almost considered to be an art form. It was totally acceptable to not only brag about self but also secretly and sometimes even openly wish for the other person to fall and even cheered when they fell. In other words, it was normal for people in Corinth at the time to climb over each other in order to move up the social and financial ladder. Talk about Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, this thinking and behavior had also infiltrated the church. Now the Corinthian Christians were not only boasting about self but they were also secretly and sometimes even openly wishing for the other person to fall and cheered when they fell.
Some of y’all are saying – “What kind of degenerate person would wish for someone to fall? What kind of evil hearted people would cheer when someone falls into sin or when something bad happens to someone?” Us kind of people. I can hear some of y’all saying, “Oh no! Not me! I always feel for people when something bad happens to them.” Some of y’all are saying, “When I heard what happened to them, I sent them a card…I even stopped by and told them ‘I was sad to hear what happened.’” Sure, we’re sad when bad things happen to our children or our best friend or someone we like or someone who is helpless or less fortunate but how about when something bad happens to those we don’t like very much or those we don’t care for much. I am referring to what goes through our minds when we hear that someone we envy just received bad news from the doctor. I am referring to what flashes in the secret chambers of our hearts when we hear that someone who seems to be ahead of us in life is going through a divorce or their son/daughter is making bad choices. I am referring to our first reaction when someone who always seems so strong and self-sufficient loses his job or has a wreck. I’m not suggesting that we call them and tell them how happy we are or throw a party in their dishonor. We are more cautious and polite and have more decency than that. I’m referring to the subtle feeling of satisfaction, amusement, and glee that comes over us and says, “Now I feel better. Now I’m one step ahead of them.” It’s the voice in our head that says, “I feel bad for em…but that’ll take em down a notch or two” or “Maybe that’ll teach em a lesson” or “We must be doing something right because we’re not going through what they are…thank God…” Germans call this thought and feeling “Schadenfreude,” which is the combination of two words – Schaden = damage and freude = joy. It means “the emotion of pleasure we feel in the misfortunes of others.” 99.9% of the time we will never share this with anyone, even people we trust but its there.
Question: No need to raise your hand but has this feeling ever come into your hearts? If you’re human, it has. The sooner you acknowledge it the better. If you pretend it’s not there, you will not be able to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, you won’t be able to love others the way God loves you. It will corrupt the channel of love in your heart. Illustration: Imagine if you asked someone for a glass of water. They bring you clean water but the container is dirty. No matter how clean the water is, the dirty container will contaminate it. So also, it doesn’t matter how pure the love is in your heart but if your heart is dirty, it will contaminate your love. It will corrupt even the love you have for your loved ones. It will the Devil the foothold he wants in your life.
The place to begin is to recognize the source of this “Schadenfreude.” No one has to give you a lesson in it. It comes from the sin that resides deep within all of us. Keep in mind, this was not just some Corinthian problem. It is an age-old problem. In the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, listen to what he says, Job 31 29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, Or lifted myself up when evil found him 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for a curse on his soul).” Job calls this a sin. Psalm 17:5 “…He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 24 17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. God told his people in the Old Testament to refrain from rejoicing even over the downfall of their enemies.
Application: If we were truly honest, all of us have some repenting to do.
But Paul didn’t stop there. It’s not enough “not to feel happy at the misfortunes of others.” He went one step further to say – “Love rejoices in the truth.” First, the word for rejoices is “sugcharei,” which is more than just rejoicing. It is actually “joyfully celebrating” or “congratulating” or “applauding.” Truth is the word “aletheia” which is somewhat complicated. Truth here is not gospel truth. It’s not just the good things of life. Truth here is something objective. It doesn’t matter if it benefits me or hurts me. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the social ladder. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the financial ranking. Truth is truth.
Illustration: Sometime back someone invited me to go watch a basketball game. One of the players of the rival team made an amazing play and someone said – “It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for. That was a good play.” Meaning: Truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if that point goes against us or not. That player had just made an excellent play.
Love not only refuses to be happy at the misfortunes and mistakes of one’s enemies but it acknowledges and applauds the good it sees in the other person, without any regard to how it impacts self.
So how can you do this? First, you have to see how God loves you. If you want to know how God loves you, look to the cross.
I Corinthians 1 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Why did Paul begin his letter to the Corinthians by focusing on the cross? Because he wanted them to know how contrary it was to their way of thinking. In the Corinthian culture, it was acceptable to climb on others, wish for their failures, and even rejoice in their misfortunes. To the contrary, Jesus gave his life on the cross for the very ones who were nailing him. He rejoiced in the truth that what he was doing would bring life to them. Instead of wishing for their failure, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you receive Christ as your savior, not only are your sins forgiven but it also changes your definition of love. God the Holy Spirit purifies our misunderstanding of love.
How do you love others? Now with the help of the Holy Spirit you can actually love people through the cross. It’s not just Jesus on the cross but also you crucifying your sinfulness and selfishness and loving people with a purifying love.
Are you saved? Are you loving others with a purifying love