The most excellent way (part 9): Gospel rejoicing

Love…does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. –1 Corinthians 13:6, NRSV

“Rejoice in wrongdoing”?  Who does that?  Or, as the NIV has it, “Love does not delight in evil.”  Are we supposed to envision some kind of cinematic super-villain, gleefully rubbing his hands together in anticipation of his evil triumph (insert maniacal laugh here)?  We may struggle with patience, kindness, pride, and resentment — but if love means not being like that, then surely we’ve got this one down.

Or do we?

Paul began the chapter with an elegant paean to the superiority of love, then got down to specifics that might well have needled the conscience of the Corinthians.  As we’ve seen, when talking about what love doesn’t do, Paul seemed to hint back at earlier criticisms of their conduct.  By the time he came to love not being “irritable or resentful” (vs. 5b, NRSV), he seemed to be broadening the field of vision beyond Corinth, and in subsequent verses, will broaden the discussion even further.

Given our typical ways of thinking about love, it’s hard to see what rejoicing in the truth as opposed to wrongdoing (literally, “the wrong”) has to do with anything.  But the statement comes in the midst of a theological crescendo, as Paul begins to move away from specific, local concerns and back toward the grand theme with which he began: the superiority of love over spiritual gifts.

If, as suggested in earlier posts, it’s true that the descriptions of love as patient, kind, and not given to negative record-keeping are reflections of the character of God, then perhaps we might read this statement differently too: God is love, and God does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  And the same should be true of those who would reflect his loving character.

Perhaps we don’t see ourselves as taking delight in evil.  But the real question is whether we rejoice with the truth.  Put differently: do we take joy in the progress of the gospel, as Paul did?  It’s not just a matter of counting converts to the faith, but delighting in anything and everything that gives evidence of the reality of transformed — truly loving! — lives.

Because if that’s not the case, if we don’t take deep pleasure in the things that are right in God’s eyes, we may be taking satisfaction in what’s wrong instead.

And we might not even know it, unless we’re willing to hear the truth.