Love bears and believes all things (vs. 7).
There’s an extra-Biblical tale told by the rabbis about the patriarch Abraham. One night, the great father of Judaism was visited by an old feller. Abraham, being the kindly sort, welcomed him into his tent and offered him dinner—Sarah made a great fig stew, after all. As the old man went to eat, Abraham noticed he did not ask a blessing for the food before he dug in. Aghast, Abraham confronted the man. “Ask God to bless the food?” said the old man, confused, “I don’t even worship God!”
Abraham snapped. He picked the old man up with rage and chucked him full-throttle through the door of the tent and into the night. Sitting down, Abraham felt better and went about eating that delicious fig stew. But then God called to him, “Where is that old man?”
“Oh him? I threw him out because he did not worship You. Wasn’t that a good idea?” Abraham gloated.
God was not smiling. “I have put up with that man for eighty years. Eighty years of dishonor and blasphemy and every sin possible—yet I haven’t chucked him off My planet. But you couldn’t even handle him for one night!”
It’s a funny (and definitely not Biblical) tale, but it illustrates an all-too-familiar human reaction. We can’t handle each other. We get so irritated with each other and treat our fellow man like a pesky mosquito. An annoyance, rather than the image of God that He loves—loves to the cross and back.
That’s why it’s so striking that love “bears all things.” Literally, the word for “bear” could mean “cover over.” It brings to mind the verse, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love covers up a whole massive truckload of sins. It doesn’t matter how many times that person has wronged you and defamed you and embarrassed you…your love for them is beyond all that!
And this isn’t just for a marriage or a family, but for all the body of Christ. For your church. For those inter-denomination fights. For those church splits. Love bears with the faults of the other, no matter how bad.
Not only does love bear all things, it also believes all things. These three little words pack a lot of meaning—and give commentators a lot of fun deciphering. But most conclude that what Paul is saying is that love will believe the truth no matter what. Love will not believe rumors, gossip, or gaffes. Love will believe the very best it possibly can in every situation. It will believe that the church member was not involved in that scandal until the evidence becomes conclusive. It will believe that its pastor is a great man of God unless the verdict is abundantly clear. It will believe in God that He is working in each believer’s heart even if it cannot see the fruit in its child’s life. Love holds to our judicial system’s motto: “innocent until proven guilty.” It assumes the best. Love is positive—a “glass half-full” type of guy.
Did you know that God is a “glass half-full” God too? He sees the best in you. In fact, He sees perfection in you if you are a believer. He sees you as a perfect child of God. How in the world? Because when Christ died for your sin, He got your messed-up life and you got His perfect life. When God looks at you, you are justified. You are “just-as-if-you-never-sinned.” He sees the best in you because He sees His Son in you. Yes, He knows you struggle. He knows you sin. Constantly. Over and over again. Like that old man, you’ve been dishonoring Him from day one to year eighty. You try to stop, but keep failing. You are messed-up!
But He bears with you. He covers your sin again and again because He loves you and His Son already paid for that sin. He bears with you, over and over and over to the cross and back!
If God has born with your sin countless times, maybe you shouldn’t chuck your guest out the tent door. Maybe you shouldn’t revile a person who wrongs you. Maybe you should instead “bear” that sin—let love cover it. Maybe, instead of believing every rumor, you should assume the best of that person. See each person as possessing the image of the immutable God, instead of just irritations in your daily life.
Instead of chucking that person out of your life, out of your pew, out of your family, out of your fellowship…maybe you should put up with him. Maybe you should, like God, bear with his every fault…even for eighty long years.