1 Corinthians 13:5(4)

Sermon preached on March 6, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

As I get older I notice that in some ways my memory is not what it used to be. Awhile ago I talked to a friend from high school and he mentioned someone that I didn't recall. I told him that I didn't know him. But my friend corrected me and told me that I did know him. But I couldn't remember. I can also recognize some names of people from high school, but because I wasn't close to them, that's all I remember. I can't put a face to the name or remember anything about them.

But with other things my memory is quite sharp. I remember in college a guy in my dorm came to me and asked me if I'd loan him $10.00. He needed it for something and although it was a lot of money for me at that time, I felt sorry for him and loaned him the money. But he never paid me back. I can remember that about college but many other much more important things have faded from my memory. I still remember vividly many instances from my youth where people hurt me. They're as clear as crystal, like they happened yesterday. Even though I don't consciously try to think of them—those memories stay with me.

Our minds naturally keep track of the wrongs that were done to us. I've even noticed this in visiting people who have Alzheimer's. They can't remember things from five or ten minutes ago, but some of them can go on and on about how they were hurt by people in their younger days.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but I've heard that it has happened with many married couples—when they have an argument and they're disagreeing with each other, one of them will bring up some long past offense or slight and throw it in the other person's face. It has nothing to do with what is going on at the moment but it's something from long ago. The other person will think,

"Wow. Where did that come from?"

I'm not saying that I have ever experienced it— but in the heat of an argument, husbands and wives can suddenly dredge up offences that should have been put to rest long ago. Penny Young Nance, in commenting on why marriages fail, writes, (Looking back after Twenty years of marriage: What's really important)

"couples can easily keep track of each other's failings over the years until they each have a large enough tally of slights and wrongs that became unrecoverable."

Keeping a record of wrongs can be exceedingly damaging to relationships. It is something we must not do. We must not keep a record of wrongs. The Holy Spirit tells us here is that

love forgets wrongs one has received.

The NIV puts it this way, (1 Corinthians 13:5)

"keeps no record of wrongs."

That's a good translation. But since I was brought up on the KJV when I think of this verse I think that love,

"thinketh no evil…"

I interpreted that to me that we shouldn't impugn other people's motives. That's one way of understanding our text. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write that our text could be translated, (1 Corinthians (PNTC; p. 646-647)

" 'does not contemplate evil' (either in the sense of thinking about doing evil acts or in the sense of suspecting others of evil). Chrysostom makes a point that Paul 'did not say 'does not carry out evil' but 'does not even think about it,' that is, so far from contriving any evil, it does not even suspect it of the one it loves.' "

We shouldn't think evil of other people. We shouldn't think that they have evil motives. We should give them the benefit of the doubt.

But the Greek word also has another meaning. Gordon D. Fee says that the text literally reads, love, (1 Corinthians, NICNT; p. 708)

"does not reckon the evil."

The Greek word originally referred to, ("λογίζομαι," BDAG, 597)

"a mathematical and accounting term…"

So it also means, (BDAG, 597.

"to determine by mathematical process,"

Thus the meaning could also be to, (BDAG, 597)

"count someth. against someone, to punish the person for it"

Simon J. Kistemaker gives us this picture of the meaning. He writes, (1 Corinthians, Baker New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993, p. 460-461)

"Here is a verbal portrait of a bookkeeper who flips the pages of his ledger to reveal what has been received and spent. He is able to give an exact account and provide an itemized list. Some people are keeping a similar list of wrongs that they have experienced. But love is extremely forgetful when it comes to remembering injury and injustice. When wrongs have been forgiven, they ought to be forgotten and never be mentioned again."

Last week at the prison Bible Study one of the inmates told me that he used to be a very vindictive person. He said that everyone knew it. His family would warn people not to cross him because they knew he would take revenge. He told me that he would stay up at night plotting revenge against anyone that crossed him. You've all heard the old saying,

"Don't get mad, get even."

That's what he did.

But we are not to be vengeful people. We are not to take note of wrongs done to us and seek to avenge those wrongs. We must not get mad nor try to get even. When someone sins against us we must not write it down or keep it in memory. We must expel it from our minds. Love is not, as the ESV puts it,


When I was a teenager I read Alexandre Dumas' great book, The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved it. It was a book about someone who was greatly wronged. Because of the wrong done to him his plans and dreams were shattered. But years later he was given a great opportunity to get his revenge. At the time I loved the plot of the book. It was exciting, suspenseful, and for some of the second half of the book, satisfying. But then it changed. The last part of the book wasn't satisfying. It wasn't just the guilty who suffered—innocent people were also greatly harmed. They suffered because of revenge against the guilty. The book was a tragedy in more ways than one. I believe one of the lessons taught in that novel is that revenge is not good.

We must not keep a record of wrongs. David E. Garland puts it this way, (1 Corinthians, BECNT; p.618-619)

"Love does not keep books on evil…The image is of keeping records of wrongs with a view to paying back injury… Love is painfully aware of evil and does not ignore it, but love tries to overcome it with good and does not keep a record to return evil for evil."

R.C.H. Lenski adds,

"Love forgets to charge any wrong done to itself. It is neither enraged at the moment, nor does it hold a grudge in vindictiveness afterward."

Isn't this what Jesus taught us? In Luke 17:3–4 Jesus said to His disciples,

"So watch yourselves.'
If your brother sins,
rebuke him,
and if he repents,
forgive him.
If he sins against you
seven times in a day,
and seven times comes back
to you and says,
'I repent,' forgive him."

You'll also recall Peter's question to Jesus. He asked, (Matthew 18:21–22)

"Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother when he sins against me?
Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered,

"I tell you, not seven times,
but seventy-seven times."

David E. Garland writes, (1 Corinthians, BECNT; p.619)

"One has learned nothing if one keeps a tally of the number of times one has forgiven another so that when the magic number is reached, one can stop forgiving and mete out punishment" (Garland 1993: 194)."

All this tells us that we must not keep a record of the wrongs that people have done against us. We must strive to forget the wrongs.

So this means

you must not dwell on the wrongs that have been done to you.

I once heard about a tribe of people living in the South Pacific who made a virtue out of resentment. They had a habit of keeping reminders of hateful deeds done against him. They would hang articles from the ceilings of their huts to remind them of those who had wronged them.

We must not be like that. Rather we should be like the ancient Jews who were told by God to remember His commandments. In Deuteronomy 6:6–9 Moses said to the people,

"These commandments that
I give you today
are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you
sit at home and when you walk
along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands
and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes
of your houses and on your gates."

We are to think about God's commandments. We must forget about offenses done to us. You must put them aside. You must quickly put them out of your minds. You must think on other things. As Paul put it in Philippians 4:8,

"Finally, brothers,
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things."

You are to keep your soul pure. R.C.H. Lenski writes,

"Chrysostom has well said: 'As a spark falls into the sea and does not harm the sea, so harm may be done to a loving soul and is soon quenched without disturbing the soul.' "

There are three things to note about this.

It's not enough that we put these things out of our minds once or twice.

We probably can't help the memories coming back to us but we can deal with them correctly.

In some ways I think our brains are like computer hard drives. A criminal can have a file on his hard drive that could incriminate him so he puts it in the trash and empties the trash. He might think that the file is gone. But it's not. All the computer does is delete the name of that file from its index. The file remains on the hard drive, untouched, until it gets overwritten by another file. But that could be months. So if the police confiscate his computer before the file is overwritten they can recover that incriminating file.

Our brains are like that. We think that we've forgotten about some offense against us—but in a time of stress or anger it comes back to us. We remember the offence. We must fight against that memory. We must try to put it away from us for good. We can dismiss them right away. We can say to ourselves,

"I'm not allowed to entertain that thought. I've forgiven the person and the Holy Spirit tells me that I must not harbor a grudge, that I must not hold this against the person."

In a way, we are to be like what we see in some court cases. Someone is charged with a crime and they have a history of committing the same crime. But the judge rules that the jury can't be told about the previous convictions.

Now I actually don't like judges doing that. I think it often leads to injustice, where the guilty get off.

But even though I don't like it, that's the way that Jesus tells us we are to behave privately toward others. We are not to remember their past offenses against us. We are not to keep track of the times they have hurt us.

Now secondly,

this doesn't mean that we throw away common sense.

In Matthew 10:16 Jesus said,

"I am sending you out
like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes
and as innocent as doves."

We are not to be stupid about this. If someone is a sexual predator, we need to remember that and protect those that are in danger.

But, with most things, we can and should keep no record of wrongs. Jonathan Edwards puts it this way, (Charity and Its Fruits, p. 211)

"Particular persons, in their private judgments of others, are not obliged to divest themselves of reason, that they may thus judge well of all. This would be plainly against reason; for Christian charity is not a thing founded on the ruins of reason, but there is the most sweet harmony between reason and charity."

Thirdly, to help us do this we should think of how God has treated us.

In Psalm 130:3–4 the Psalmist said,

" If you, O LORD,
kept a record of sins,
O Lord,
who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared."

But God does more than not keep a record of our sins. R.C.H. Lenski and other commentators make a good point.

"We ought to note that οὐ λογίζεσθαι is the very verb used to describe the pardoning act of God: he does not impute to us our guilt, Ps. 32:2; Rom. 4:8; II Cor. 5:19; but imputes to us righteousness for Christ's sake, Rom. 4:6–11, 22–25; James 2:23."

In 2 Corinthians 5:19 the apostle Paul wrote,

"God was reconciling the world
to himself in Christ,
not counting men's sins against them."

He doesn't put our sins against us. In Romans 4:7-8 Paul quotes from Psalm 32. He wrote,

"Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin
the Lord will never count against him."

God is so wonderful to us. As David said in Psalm 103:10–12,

"he does not treat us
as our sins deserve or repay us
according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens
are above the earth,
so great is his love
for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us."

If God treats us that way—how can we refuse to treat others as He has treated us? God is so committed to us. Jesus died to make sure our sins would be forgiven, removed from us. How then can we keep putting others sins back on them?