A study of God’s Love from 1 Corinthians #26- Love Doesn’t Rejoice in Unrighteousness

16 Feb

Love does not rejoice in iniquity: unrighteousness, evil, wrong-doing. Love does not take pleasure in the un-righteousness and sin of others; it does not feed upon sin and wrong, nor does it pass along the stories of sin and wrong. Man’s too often has fed the tragedy of evil, whether personal sin or natural disaster.

When believers show love, they do not delight in evil, either by showing superior morality over it or by taking pleasure in another’s fall. Love does not take pleasure in any kind of evil. Instead, love does the exact opposite—it rejoices with the truth. Through their relationship with Jesus Christ, believers possess the one and only truth (John 14:6). Those who love should remain untainted by evil. Instead, they ought to always seek truth, desire that truth win out, protect the truth, and proclaim the truth whenever.

Love finds no pleasure in evil-doing.  It might be better to translate this that love finds no pleasure in anything that is wrong.  It is not so much delight in doing the wrong thing that is meant, as the malicious pleasure which comes to most of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else.  It is one of the queer traits of human nature that very often we prefer to hear of the misfortune of others rather than of their good fortune.  It is much easier to weep with them that weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.  Christian love has none of that human malice which finds pleasure in all reports.

The rejoicing at sin, the taking pleasure in them that commit sin, the exultation over the fall of others into sin, are among the worst forms of malignity:

(Romans 1:32 NIV)  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

(2 Thessalonians 2:12 NIV)  “…and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

The Greeks had a word, ejpicairekaki to describe “rejoicing at the evil” (whether sin or misfortune) of others:

(Proverbs 24:17 NIV)  Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice).

Love never takes satisfaction from sin, whether our own sin or that of others. Doing wrong things is bad enough in itself; bragging about them makes the sins even worse. To rejoice in unrighteousness is to justify it. It is making wrong appear to be right.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil,” Isaiah warns, “who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isa. 5:20). That is turning God’s truth upside down.

Among the most popular magazines, books, and TV programs are those that glorify sin, that literally rejoice in unrighteousness. More and more explicitly they declare that anything goes and that every person sets his own standards of right and wrong.

The belief today: what is right is doing what you want! Even much news amounts to rejoicing in unrighteousness, because violence, crime, immorality, slander, and the like are attractive to the natural mind and heart.

Christians are not immune from enjoying such things, either because we find them entertaining or because we feel self-righteous about not doing them ourselves.

Sometimes rejoicing in unrighteousness takes the form of hoping someone will make a mistake or fall into sin. I have known Christians who wanted to be rid of their marriage partners or were already divorced.

But because they believe that remarriage is unbiblical unless the other party was unfaithful, they actually hoped their spouses would commit adultery so that they themselves could be scripturally free to remarry!

Rejoicing in sin is wrong first of all because sin is an affront to God.

We cannot imagine taking delight in a tragedy that befalls a friend or loved one; yet when we delight in sin, we are delighting in that which offends and grieves our heavenly Father and which is tragedy to Him.

If we love God, what offends Him will offend us and what grieves Him will grieve us.

(Psalms 69:9 NIV)  for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

When God was dishonored David was grieved, because the One whom he loved above all others was maligned. When we enjoy sin, either directly or vicariously in seeing others sin, we prove our lack of love for God.

One of the most common forms of rejoicing in sin is gossip. Gossips would do little harm if they did not have so many eager listeners. This sin, which many Christians treat lightly, is wicked not only because it uncaringly reveals the weaknesses and sins of others, and therefore hurts rather than helps them, but because the heart of gossip is often rejoicing or seemingly delighting in evil. Gossip that is true is still gossip.

It is the way unfavorable truth is passed on, and often simply the fact that it is passed on, that makes gossip gossip. The essence of gossip is gloating over the shortcomings and sins of others, which makes gossip a great sin itself. A person is never helped by spreading the news of his sin.

Granville Walker said, There are times when silence is yellow, times when we ought to stand on our feet and regardless of the consequences challenge the gross evils of the time, times when not to do so is the most blatant form of cowardice. But there are other times when silence is golden, when to tell the truth is to make many hearts bleed needlessly and when nothing is accomplished and everything is hurt by a loose tongue.

Second, rejoicing in sin is wrong because of the consequences it has on the one who sins.

Sin can produce nothing but harm. In the unsaved person sin is evidence of his lostness. In a believer sin is evidence of disobedience and broken fellowship with God. To love a person is to hate his sin. Discipline in the church is necessary not only to protect the purity of the body but to help the sinning believer confront his wrong and to repent:

(Matthew 18:15-20 NIV)  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. {18} “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. {19} “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. {20} For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Paul had reminded the Corinthians of his command:

(1 Corinthians 5:11 NIV)  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

 In his second letter to Thessalonica he said,

(2 Thessalonians 3:6 NIV)  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

 That the apostle considered this principle entirely consistent with love, in fact a necessary part of love, is seen in the previous verse: “And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (v. 5). Love cannot tolerate evil or rejoice in it in any way.

Finding out what a person enjoys—what gives them pleasure and causes them to rejoice—may be very revealing about the character of that person. For example, an off-color joke may be funny or enjoyable—but not righteous. Paul says love looks to the truth of God’s Word (and secondarily to truth in general) to define that which it can enjoy, that over which it can rejoice.

Secular entertainment offers a good illustration; many movies set us up to take pleasure in that which is not righteous. Often the villain is characterized by incredible violence and cruelty. All through the movie, he does things designed to cause us to hate him with a passion. We don’t want him to be caught and sent to prison. We don’t want him to be convicted and given the death penalty. We want this person to die in the worst conceivable way.

And so, in the end, the individual gets his reward, dying the most painful, violent death the film writer can conceive. And we find ourselves watching this man die with great pleasure, rejoicing in that which is far from righteous.

Christians reject a great many movies for explicit sex, violence, or filthy language, and rightly so. But these blatantly offensive or evil films tend to desensitize us toward films which are evil in a more subtle way.

We breathe a sigh of relief when we find a movie with a “G” or perhaps a “PG” rating. Here is a movie we can take the family to see. But some of these movies may tempt us to rejoice in unrighteousness without even realizing it.

A few years ago, a family film started with a woman taking off her wedding ring and leaving it with a note to her husband. As the movie went on, the woman was portrayed as a caring woman who developed a special relationship with a handicapped child. She met a warm, sensitive doctor with whom she “fell in love.”

The calloused, insensitive husband then appears, and as the drama concludes, the husband is sent packing as the woman, the doctor, and the young girl are brought together—a supposedly happy ending which makes the viewer feel good.

You find yourself thinking the husband deserved divorce, and the woman deserved “happiness.”  But there is a problem: there were no biblical grounds for divorce.

From the standpoint of biblical revelation, the woman and the doctor were committing adultery. And so, in what seems like a “good, clean, family film,” we rejoice over that which is not righteous.

Love takes no pleasure in unrighteousness. Love sets its mind on what is right:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).

Here is the way to unity. Love dwells on what is right and then does what is right. This is the way to peace.

Want to separate the fake from the factual, the counterfeit from the real thing? Want to know if what you feel is genuine love? Ask yourself this:

Do I encourage this person to do what is right? For true love “takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth” ( 1 Cor. 13:6 jb) .

For instance, one lady calls another and says, “We’re friends, right?”

“Yeah, we’re friends.”

“If my husband asks, you tell him we were together at the movies last night.”

“But we weren’t.”

“I know, but I was, well, I was with another guy and—hey, you’ll do this for me, won’t you? We’re friends, right? Tighter than sisters, right?”

Does this person pass the test? No way. Love doesn’t ask someone to do what is wrong.

If you find yourself prompting evil in others, heed the alarm. This is not love. And if others prompt evil in you, be alert.

Here’s an example. A classic one. A young couple are on a date. His affection goes beyond her comfort zone. She resists. But he tries to persuade her with the oldest line in the book: “But I love you. I just want to be near you. If you loved me …”

That siren you hear? It’s the phony-love detector. This guy doesn’t love her. He may love having sex with her. He may love her body. He may love boasting to his buddies about his conquest. But he doesn’t love her. True love will never ask the “beloved” to do what he or she thinks is wrong.

Love doesn’t tear down the convictions of others. Quite the contrary. “Love builds up” ( 1 Cor. 8:1 ).

“Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light and will not cause anyone to stumble” ( 1 John 2:10).

“You are sinning against Christ when you sin against other Christians by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong” ( 1 Cor. 8:12 nlt ).

Do you want to know if your love for someone is true? If your friendship is genuine? Ask yourself: Do I influence this person to do what is right?

You want to plumb the depths of your love for someone? How do you feel when that person succeeds? Do you rejoice? Or are you jealous? And when he or she stumbles? Falls to misfortune? Are you really sorry? Or are you secretly pleased?

Love never celebrates misfortune. Never. I like the way Eugene Peterson translates the passage: “Love … doesn’t revel when others grovel, [but] takes pleasure in the flowering of truth” ( 1 Cor. 13:6 msg ).

  1. B. Phillips is equally descriptive: “Love … does not … gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it shares the joy of those who live by the truth.”

You know your love is real when you weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

God passes the test of 1 Corinthians 13:7 . Does he want the best for you? “God himself does not tempt anyone” ( James 1:13).

Every action of heaven has one aim: that you know God. “He … made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him” ( Acts 17:26–27 msg ).

And does God rejoice when you do what is right? Certainly. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” ( Ps. 147:11 niv ).

Does he weep when you do? Absolutely! He is the “God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times” ( 2 Cor. 1:3–4 msg ).

Do you want to know what love is? “This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be the way to take away our sins” ( 1 John 4:10 ).


1 Comment

Posted by on February 16, 2023 in 1 Corinthians


One response to “A study of God’s Love from 1 Corinthians #26- Love Doesn’t Rejoice in Unrighteousness

  1. Jerry Pritchett

    February 24, 2023 at 7:32 am

    Gary, Our adult Bible class will be beginning a study of 1 Corinthians on May 7.  There will be three teachers who teach two lessons at a time on a rotational basis.  I will be one of those teachers. Can you send me your lesson posts on 1 Corinthians?  I will share them with the other two teachers as we begin preparing our class presentations.  THANK YOU IN ADVANCE! We are now deciding which of two lesson workbooks we may use with the class members.  One is a class workbook by Robert Harkrider.  We have used his workbooks in the past to teach Luke, Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John and Jude.  The other workbook is by Mike Willis published by Truth books.  We are considering this second workbook if for no other reason than to just make a change in the class materials. Your posts would be used by the teachers as another source for us to prepare our lessons. Jerry



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