– 1 Corinthians 13:7
One of God’s greatest attributes is that of His forbearance. Forbearance simply means tolerance, patience, refraining from acting, or even putting up with someone or something that is annoying. God bears all of our sins. He even sent His sinless Son to die for us who were once wicked, ungodly enemies of His (Romans 5:6-10). More than that, He puts up with our many flaws and gives us the free gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9) because of our trust in Christ (John 3:36). Only a godly (agape) love could bear creatures that are thankless, unholy, wicked enemies of His. Only God in Jesus Christ could ask God to forgive the very ones who were crucifying Him on the cross because they didn’t know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). If God bears all of our faults and sins, why should we not bear those of our brothers and sisters? If we see how much more God has had to bear with us, then it should make it much easier to bear the faults of others and should make us more bearable to be around. Godly forbearance is not only pleasing to those around you; it is pleasing to God.
The Apostle Paul’s admonition that “love believes all things” means love gives people the benefit of the doubt. For example, love doesn’t assume someone’s lying. Love tends to think the best of people, even where there’s some doubt. It gives people credit. For example, when someone’s late, you assume there must have been some unforeseen circumstance come up. Love tells you that even if they don’t do what you asked them to do, they probably have a very good reason for it. Love isn’t quick to assume the worst but to assume the best. It attributes the best of intentions to people no matter what things look like at the time. Love gives the person a chance to explain themselves before you reach a conclusion about them. Too often I’ve found that I was wrong in assuming the worst. I now try to give the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. I’m not their judge. I can’t convict them on circumstantial evidence, so I won’t jump to the conclusion that they must have done something wrong. Even if a person is injured or gets sick, we can’t automatically assume God’s punishing them because of some sin. That’s a false assumption. It could be true; but until we know it’s true, we have no business thinking such a thing.
If you were waiting for your friend and he or she were about ten minutes late, you’d probably not panic. But if the wait grew to half an hour or more, you’d probably be more worried than mad that they’re late. Your aggravation for their being late would be nothing compared to your worry about their safety. Knowing your friend is a good driver and very dependable would make you even more concerned for their safety. In a similar way, we should hold out hope for our friends and family members who have not yet trusted in Christ. We can certainly witness to them and then pray for them, but beyond that we must trust the sovereignty of God. God is the one Who adds to the church (Acts 2:47), but He does use us as a means to add to the church. It’s not our responsibility to save anyone. It’s their response to His ability. However, it’s still our responsibility to tell others. Even if someone looks hopelessly lost, don’t give up. Even a Saul can become a Paul. God’s Spirit can send a Damascus Road experience to anyone. Love believes all things, no matter what things look like at the time.
The word “endure” means to hold out against, to live through something painful, or to be patient in suffering. In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul is emphasizing that love is able to endure pain, suffering, and sorrow while still managing to hold on. The ability to do this is not from a human source but from love, specifically the love of God. We mustn’t think that we loved God first so He would love us (1 John 4:19). God made the first move. And since God made the first move, we must make the next move, motivated out of a love to endure all things. All things could certainly include the shortcomings and faults of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They could be the illness we’re battling or our relationship being on the rocks or our finances being in ruins. Here is where love comes into play. Since God is a good God and infinitely better than any earthly father, wouldn’t God give us better things and take care of us in a better way than any earthly parent would? Of course! Would God bring you into His family and then let you wander aimlessly like a lost sheep? No. What good shepherd would go out with 100 sheep and not return with 100 sheep?
Many consider 1 Corinthians 13 the “love chapter” because it has so many references about love. This chapter can help us discern what love is and what love is not. For example, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). Love is able to bear all sorts of things. Love certainly believes all things or gives people the benefit of the doubt. Love also holds out hope against hope, never losing hope in the sovereign God. And love endures what this present world brings us. We can compare today and then look at eternity. It’s no contest because the joy that’s set before us cannot compare with this tiny slice of time we call “today” (Romans 8:18).
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