What is the Meaning of 1 Corinthians 13.6 Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness

“Love Does Not Rejoice in Unrighteousness”

1 Corinthians 13:6

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of 1 Corinthians 13.6 Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness

1 Corinthians 13:6. There’s a lot of discussion today about the media’s influence in public thinking today. Much of the discussion centers on fake news and how what is reported can influence public opinion. But there’s an additional fact that may explain why it’s so influential. The news is mostly negative.

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Why is it that when you watch or read the news, you are primarily reading what is negative?

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The answer to that is because the media knows that you have a stronger reaction when you hear something bad than when you hear something good.

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And so there was this really smart guy with a name I can’t pronounce… And he showed people pictures that are known to arouse positive feelings, and neutral feelings, and negative feelings. For example, for the positive feelings he showed people of Ferrari or a pizza. And to arouse negative feelings, he showed people an injury or something that was dead. For a neutral response, he showed people a plate or a hairdryer.

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And then he recorded the electrical activity of the brain’s cerebral cortex, which reflects the intensity of information processing taking place.

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What he found was that people react more intensely to negative images then to positive images.[1]

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And the media knows this and so that is why they primarily give negative news and not positive news. This is why there are television shows that are all about people getting arrested or celebrities getting in trouble.

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Why is it that we are so fascinated with negativity? Because in our flesh, we rejoice in unrighteousness. Apart from the work of God in the human heart, we’ll rejoice in unrighteousness. But love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.

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There is a malicious pleasure that arises in our hearts so often when we hear something that defames someone else and we’re more inclined to believe it and to care about it since it is negative. We all too often prefer to hear of the misfortune of others and not their good fortune.[2]

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And I get that, too; that’s in me also. I’ve felt that spiteful joy when I rejoice in unrighteousness, sensing happiness that someone failed in some way…and it’s wrong! And this whole chapter has worked me over and have exposed my heart. I’ve been rebuked by this passage over and over again, and it’s difficult to even study it sometimes because I know I’m going to be convicted. But I need it so much; and I’m thankful! I’m growing in my love, I can tell. I trust you’re growing in your love for others also and verse 6 is meant to confront us once again and to expose us.

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So if you ever read verse 6 and thought to yourself, “well, I have this one covered. I do not rejoice in unrighteousness.” Then you do not know yourself very well!

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Imagine right now, a political official whom you dislike experienced some misfortune or sins in some way…. Really imagine that…would there not be some sort of evil, judgmental glee that arises in your heart? We’ve all experienced that!

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So here’s the point this morning…

Love does not take pleasure in a report of someone’s sin, but when the truth prevails.

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As…Proverbs 24:17 says 17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;

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There are many different views on our text this morning in 1 Co. 13:6. So I can’t say this morning that I have a laser-like focus, but I do have some meditations about the statement that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.

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  1. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness

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    EXP: The difficulty of the verse is perhaps why Paul includes the positive as well as the negative. This is the only aspect of love that includes the positive when there is a “not.” You can see from verse 4 on when it says love is not jealous, he doesn’t give the positive side. Or love is not arrogant he didn’t say that love is humble. But for this one in verse six he does. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but …positively…love rejoices with the truth.

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    Perhaps this is the human side of inspiration and he realized this was his 8th negative aspect of love … his 8th negative…and so he included something positive!

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    But we get a little stumped because the contrast is between unrighteousness and truth. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but with the truth. Not unrighteousness but truth. We normally wouldn’t put “truth” in contrast to unrighteousness. If I were writing this I would say something like “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with righteousness.” Part of the difficulty is determining why truth is the contrast with unrighteousness.

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    Like the other descriptions of love, the issue is how we relate to others. All the other descriptions of love tell us of our relationship to others; so also does this one.

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    So I believe that the issue is that “Love does not take pleasure in a report of someone’s sin, but when the truth prevails.”

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    EXP: Rejoices. So love does not rejoice in, or delight in someone else’s sin, a report of their sin, or their misfortune.

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    1. Doesn’t delight in someone else’s actual sin

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      So I would like us to ponder this fact first: that love does not delight in someone else’s actual sin. If you delight in someone’s sin, you could be tempted by their sin.

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      1. To be tempted by it.

      There is a reason that Paul says elsewhere in Galatians 6:1…

Galatians 6:1 1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

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If I rejoice in someone’s sin, I could be tempted by it. I can easily get caught up in somebody else’s sin, even when I am attempting to restore them.

[sacrastic surprise!] How could that possibly happen? This way … Because I could rejoice in that unrighteousness.

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Because in my heart there has been cultivating over the years a rejoicing in that sin. I may be attempting to restore some brother or sister from some regular common sin, like fear or worry or anger. And I may have struggled with that in the past and have felt the delicious security or self-righteousness of those sins. And now I may be tempted to fall back into it.

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Or maybe some serious moral failure, like some sexual sin. Here you are attempting to restore a married couple and now you are being tempted because you have cultivated some rejoicing over this sin in your past, through technology for example.

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1 Corinthians 10:12 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

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TRANS: So we can rejoice in unrighteousness to the point where we are tempted by it. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness like that. That may be part of the point here. But what I think is more the point here is that without love, we can also rejoice in unrighteousness to the point where we harshly criticize others for it!

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  1. To look down on them for it:

Love does not harshly criticize others for their sin or anything!

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ILL: I wonder if that’s not part of why bloopers are so popular! I enjoy basketball and their bloopers, for example. And there was one where this player was on the bloopers show so much, that he got so upset at the show’s hosts that the directors decided that that player should never be on there again.

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Others, though, have a good spirit about when they get on there and they have a good laugh at themselves. Falling down dribbling the ball…

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Or news bloopers, right, the guy says on air, “We didn’t have tornaders here until we started puttin in those traffic circles. Cause, you wanna know why? Because people go round and round in circles and causes disturbances in the atmosphere and causes tornadoes.” That’s funny, but the guy was serious. Somehow, I’m not supposed to look down on him for it. And I don’t think I do. But I can understand someone being critical of him.

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Now, I’m not convicted about those videos, but I should be if I’m beginning to criticize those people, “What idiots!” That wouldn’t be good.

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And we can respond unlovingly if someone makes a mistake or sins and we harshly criticize them for it.

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This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 7:1 1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

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It’s very easy to look down on others for their sin or mistakes… And to judge them for it… That is, to be critical and judgmental. Jesus promises that by the way that you judge, you will be judged. If you are severely critical and give unfair criticisms and judgments, “by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Christ will, somehow, call us into account for unfair criticisms.

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So … no, we need to remove the log in our own eye first so that we can see clearly to remove the speck out of our brothers’ eye. Eye log removal is an important step before gently correcting others.

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APP: For example, someone may have sinned or made some serious mistake. Before criticizing them, consider them in their situation and any difficulty they may be going through… After humbly and lovingly pondering their life and difficulty, you will be able to say, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” And then we’ll refrain from harsh criticism and will be generous toward others.

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TRANS: So we can easily rejoice in unrighteousness to the point that we are tempted with that unrighteousness to commit it. We can rejoice in unrighteousness to the point that we harshly criticize the one who sinned, and now … we can rejoice in unrighteousness to the point that think ourselves more righteous.

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  1. To think yourself to be more righteous

ILL: Recall with me Jesus’ parable about two men who went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee the other tax collector. The Pharisee stands and prays thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

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But the tax collector couldn’t even approach the temple, was unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven and was beating his chest and simply said, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

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And you tell me, which of them does Jesus say went away having been declared righteous in God’s sight, the Pharisee or the tax collector? ________________ And you know, we can get that right and that is the proper response to the gospel if one were to be saved …

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… but have we not also thought of ourselves as being more righteous than others when they have sinned in some way? I can read or hear a report about the true, actual moral failings of someone else and how do I respond? Do I express a kind of self-righteous grief, or do I exalt myself in my own spirit? Or do I genuinely love that person and express a godly remorse over it?

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TRANS: Love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness to the point that we are tempted with that unrighteousness to commit it, or to the point that we harshly criticize the one who sinned, and love doesn’t think ourselves more righteous than others when they have sinned.

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TRANS: So love doesn’t rejoice when others actually sin or fall into temptation. But love also doesn’t delight in someone else’s reported sin. And the reason why I believe this is a focus is because Paul says that, “Love rejoices in the truth.” We’re going to rejoice with the truth when we hear a report about someone’s supposed failure. We don’t simply believe everything we hear because it defames another.

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So love doesn’t delight in someone else’s reported sin … and that’s because love rejoices with the truth!

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  1. Love doesn’t delight in someone else’s reported sin

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    And so love does not delight in spreading a report of someone’s sin without proof.

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    1. Spreading reports of someone’s sin without proof.

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    Because love rejoices with the truth, love will not spread damaging misinformation. There are many people who experience a nefarious glee in faultfinding. Even Christian people can find some sort of malicious satisfaction in drumming up accusations that they don’t know for certain to be true, and then spreading them to others.

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    But, instead of being quick to accuse, love will seek out the truth.

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    ILL: Some who have preached or wrote on this passage believe that what Paul is referring to is what he himself experienced from the Corinthians. You see, the Corinthians were launching unfair criticisms against him and the apostle Paul is defending himself in his letters to them. “Love rejoices with the truth, not in false accusations!”

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    This is probably why one translation translate the verse this way … Love “does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” Paul experienced many injustices from other Christians, especially in Corinth.

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    Even after Paul started the church in Corinth, worked there for 18 months, he made trips to Corinth to help solve their problems, and even after all this, men began to work to destroy Paul’s reputation.

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    For example, they charged him with being fickle because he changed his plans about when he would come again to Corinth. They assigned motives to him that were not true. (2 Co. 1:17). But Paul explains that he changed his plans to “spare them” (2 Cor. 1:23) and to avoid a painful visit (2 Co. 2:1-4).

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    They also criticized him for his weak presence, 2 Co. 10:10. He probably was not the charismatic type, the life of the party!

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    They also criticized him for not being a good speaker. They say that his speeches were “contemptible.” They were basically saying that his preaching was worthless!

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    They criticized him for his letters, accusing him of being bold when absent. His letters were “weighty.” (2 Co. 10:1).

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    They criticized him for not accepting their financial support… And when Paul raised funds for the poor in Jerusalem, they charged Paul with deceitfully taking the Corinthians money for himself (2 Co. 12:16) and complained that he walked according to the flesh, 2 Corinthians 10:2.

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    And so you can imagine the kinds of discussions that was going on in Corinth when Paul was away! “That Paul he so fickle… he said he was going to come but he’s not! And he has a weak presence and can’t speak very well; his teaching is useless! But when he writes he sure is weighty… And all that money. Where did our money go? He said he was going to give it to the poor, but probably took it for himself! This man is only living in his sin!”

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    Harsh unfair criticism! Does Paul bow to them and not defend himself? Of course he defends himself! He found it repulsive that he had to do it and he felt a “little foolish” about doing it he said, but nevertheless he did because the gospel was undermined through their harsh criticism.

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    And to not rejoice in unrighteousness about each other, but to rejoice in the truth in this case meant…as Paul wrote to them … that…

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    2 Corinthians 13:1 …. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.[3]

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    TRANS: So, love will not spread damaging reports about others unless it’s somehow necessary in order to truly love the person. And love will definitely not spread damaging reports about others when there has not been a careful examination of the facts. That’s because love rejoices with the truth.

    Also, because love rejoices with truth and exalts when truth is exalted, love will not believe reports of someone’s sin without proof. Love won’t spread the unverified criticisms, and love won’t believe unverified criticisms either.

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    1. Believing reports of someone’s sin without proof.

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Proverbs 18:17 17 The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.

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Love will not believe critical reports of others without proof.

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You can’t believe everything you hear; some things need to be properly examined first.

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ILL: Matthew Henry, the famed commentator said of 1 Co. 13:6, that love “thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof.”

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ILL: It is the kind of thing that happened with David and the new king of the Ammonites. Nahash, the old king of the Ammonites, died. And Nahash was kind to David. Now Nahash the king died and his son, Hanun, is ruling in his place. David decides to send some of his servants to comfort the new king Hanun who just lost his dad.

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So David sends these men to comfort him. But Hanun’s princes say to Hanun, “David has not sent his servants to comfort you, but to search the city and spy it out and overthrow it!”

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And so Hanun believed the false report and took David servants and shaved off half of each beard and cut off their robes at the hips! Naturally, war broke out and Hanun and the Ammonites were destroyed.

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Before assigning an ill motive to David, Hanun could have sought out more information, to confirm every fact, but he didn’t! And it resulted in his downfall. Love, however, would have sought out the truth and rejoiced with it.

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TRANS: Now, if a church doesn’t seek to practice love like this among its members, it’ll cause great damage!

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  1. Damage AND Delight
    1. Damage of slander and false reports

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      When love is lacking as reports of accusation are being passed around, it’ll wreak havoc on a church.

Proverbs 16:27 27 A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.

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Scorching fire … digging up evil, finding a wrong around every corner, fault-finding, casting blame, destroys churches left and right!

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  1. Delight of this love that delights in truth: unity

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EXP: But when this aspect of love exists in the church, false accusations are squelched and even when there is sin, it is lovingly dealt with, because everyone is on the same team!

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When this aspect of love exists, there will not be what the Corinthians were doing to Paul. There will not be the false accusations and the assuming of evil and the assigning of sinful motives. No, there will be a rejoicing with the truth and that will create unity in an assembly.

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And that will bring rejoicing! Yes there will be faults and yes there will be sins and mistakes, personality conflict, and there will be a need to follow Jesus’ teaching on reconciliation and forgiveness. But a church that has this kind of love will always be on the same team and not being against one another.

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And in that, there is an oasis of peace in the midst of the desert of conflict that is so often in the world.

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TRANS: So, some directions….

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  1. Direction
    1. Know your tendency to believe and to delight in reports of someone’s sinful behaviour. … and reject it.

      To overcome rejoicing in unrighteousness like this and to put an end to unfair criticisms and the spreading of misinformation, know your tendency to believe and to delight in reports of someone’s sinful behavior.

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      Know that that is your fleshly bent. And reject it! By God’s grace, I will not believe or spread unverified reports of someone else’s sin unless truly every fact has been confirmed.

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      I will not pass on damaging reports about somebody else and gossip and slander like that.

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      TRANS: But I will passionately seek the truth, and rejoice in it! And rejoice when truth is victorious!

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    2. Passionately seek truth

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      If I am led to believe in some unfortunate sin, I will either let love cover it and forget about it… Or, if I need to deal with it, I will ask the accused about it and discuss it with them. If someone has sinned against me and I took offense, I will not harbor that against them, and I will seek to lovingly discuss it with them.

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      I will gladly hear their side of the story and be corrected if the report is not true and the it turns out to be false and then seek to gently correct others who may have believed the false report. And perhaps with a good question, like, “Were you being overly critical when you said that?”

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      Love rejoices with the truth! This is why Paul said to the Corinthians regarding the criticisms that he was facing, that every fact needed to be confirmed. This is why Jesus says to his disciples regarding a sinning brother that every fact needs to be confirmed. And this is why Paul writes to Timothy regarding receiving an accusation against an elder that every fact must be confirmed.

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      Love passionately seeks after the truth about others doesn’t immediately jump to conclusions but when necessary, will examine the facts in the presence of two or three witnesses. Without that, love does not receive an accusing report of wrongdoing, but gently covers the sin.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of 1 Corinthians 13.6 Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness

The failure to practice this aspect of love is what has divided so many churches. It has happened to God’s people so many times. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempting to lie with her. And Potiphar believed the false accusation.

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The apostle John also experienced it. There was a man named Diotrphes in Gaius’ church who “unjustly accused the apostle with wicked words.” And so the apostle endeavored to “call attention to his deeds.”

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And the apostles regularly experienced false accusation through out the known world as they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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And Jesus Christ himself experienced it. Jesus appears before Pilate and the elders and they accuse him falsely, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar….”

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And when he was before Herod, Luke notes that the chief priests and scribes were standing there, “accusing him vehemently.” And then again before Pilate, “Crucify, crucify Him!”

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And even while on the cross the crucified criminals hurl abuse at him…

…..But then …he dies!

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And in three days he is gloriously raised from the dead showing forth his own righteousness and his false accusers are put to shame!

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Anybody who has been on the receiving end of false accusation or anyone who has falsely accused or who has believed and spread damaging reports about others and gossiped or slandered in that way …. Anybody who is like this can find refuge in the cross and in the glory of his resurrection. There is joy and peace, a refuge and a high tower at the cross of Christ. There is peace to be had!

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The LORD knows and cares! One day, when Christ comes again, every wrong will be made right! He’ll vanquish all His enemies and there will be perfect peace and harmony with others.

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So I want to encourage you this morning to truly live for Christ to live out His love in you, …

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I encourage you to know his love and the pain and the injustice that he suffered for you and endeavor yourself not to give any injustice to others, but to truly rely upon him and be a source of peace and of comfort and of encouragement and of strengthening and building up and endeavor by the grace of God and by the example of Jesus Christ not to be an example of tearing down!

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It is in the person of Christ and of his work on the cross and resurrection, with his power flowing into us, that we can by his grace where we were once tempted to entertain damaging reports of others, that now we can let love cover a multitude of sins.

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Would you do that this morning? Would you seek him in that way and desire so much from your heart to love? In this way, many will find our church to be a refuge and a source of peace and of comfort … a place where we gather together and can bear our hearts without any fear that we would be falsely accused and where we can truly be the family of God.

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  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/articles/200305/why-we-love-bad-news

  2. William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 122–123.

  3. http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume41/GOT041030.html

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