Thursday, April 2, 2020

Love versus Death

"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6)

In his magnificent work Charity and Its Fruits, the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote these words: “What a watch and guard should Christians keep against envy and malice and every kind of bitterness of spirit toward their neighbors, for these are the very reverse of the real essence of Christianity.” This does not mean that a Christian does not struggle against resentment and bitterness. The New Testament repeatedly calls us to lay such things aside, showing that they are indeed problems for believers. The work of the Spirit in our hearts, however, is to overcome all such destructive tendencies.

“All those who hate Me love death,” says the wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:36. God is life and love, and when men hate God, they plunge into death and hatred. They are self-destructive and they are destructive of others. The Christian, because he is imperfectly sanctified in this life, finds to his horror that such death wishes are still powerful in his own life.

How often we Christians find a root of bitterness in our own lives. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with [bitter against] them,” wrote Paul in Colossians 3:19. It seems that the major thing husbands need to watch out for is bitterness against their wives. When the root of bitterness begins, too often we feed and nurture it, finding fault with everything, stewing in black thoughts. Such horrors are found in the hearts of Christians. It is only with the love graciously shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit of God that we can defeat them.

It is the people we are closest to that often hurt us the most. We expect more from them (though not from ourselves), and we are with them constantly, so that we have many opportunities to collect injustices. This is how conflict builds up in homes and in close-knit churches. We tend to interpret the actions of other people in the worst possible light. They do some little thing that hurts us, and instead of assuming that they did not mean to do it, we assume that they did it with premeditated malice. But when we hurt someone else and they tell us about it, we cast ourselves in the best possible light and say, “I didn’t mean it.”

When someone hurts or offends us, our reaction is usually to assume the worst possible motive in that person. But one application of the law of love is that we should give others the benefit of the doubt. How have you been doing in your relationships? Strive to assume the best possible motive in others.