I first met my wife in a Sunday School class I was leading. It was a very small church without enough classrooms for everyone to have a place to meet so we met outside when the weather was nice and on the church bus when it was cold or raining.
It was in September of 1977 and the pastor had asked me to work with the teenagers and be the piano player for the church. I still remember the lesson content from that first morning I met with a group of four teenagers, Paula being one of them. The lesson that morning was from Genesis chapter 1 on creation. I was impressed at how much this high school senior knew about the topic. She had paid attention to Bible teaching.
The months passed and we developed a friendship and were engaged to be married within the year. I liked Paula and enjoyed being with her, but also sensed a connection in my soul with her. That’s when I knew I loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
The following year she came to the same college where I was attending. I can still remember escorting her back to her dorm at night and standing there as she walked up the outside stairwell to the third floor until she finally disappeared through the door. I always walked back to my room with an ache in my heart. I didn’t want to leave her; she was my best friend and I couldn’t wait until we would be married. My mind was occupied with her all the time.
This is one of the most simple characteristics of love, thinking of someone and having them on your heart all the time. However, it isn’t just thinking about them, but also what you do not allow your mind to dwell upon concerning them. (Please read that last sentence again; it is crucial).
The Bible says that love “thinketh no evil” (I Corinthians 13:5). Marriages fail, friendships die, and families divide because they violate this expression of love. If we would practice it, our relationships would be enriched and we would know something of the love God has for us.
The word “thinketh” is an interesting word. It means “to inventory in detail”. It has the idea of counting in order to come to a careful conclusion as an accountant cares for his financial ledgers. The word “evil” means “that which is bad, injurious, and harmful”.
When you combine the two words it has the idea that love doesn’t put on the ledger of your mind the times that someone has hurt you or done wrong to you.
The best example of this is seen in what Christ has done for us at the moment of our salvation. When a person comes to Christ in repentance and faith his sins are imputed (accounted) to Christ and His righteousness is accounted to him.
He, who was totally righteous, took my sins so that I, who was unrighteous, might have a righteous standing before God. When God looks at the sinful record of a believing sinner He doesn’t see our sins, but only the pure, perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what the word “thinketh” means in I Corinthians 13:5 when it says that love “thinketh no evil”. We aren’t given Christ’s righteousness because we deserve it, but because we receive it by faith as a gift. God doesn’t “think evil” about us because of the fact that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to our record (II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:5-8).
I was at a pastor’s conference and the host of the meeting was praying for the service. As he prayed he made a comment that caused me to open my eyes, take my pen and write it down. Here’s what the man said, “Heavenly Father, we are not always loving or loveable, but we are always loved”. What a wonderful way to describe God’s love for us. We are to love others the same way, even though they are not always loving or loveable.
This means we must live a life of forgiveness, not thinking evil of those that have hurt us, and applying it to their ledger of wrongs in our minds. Someone said, “It is not Christlike to be forgiven; it is Christlike to forgive”. Jesus never had to be forgiven because He never did anything wrong, but He did have to forgive. A person does not necessarily behave like Jesus because he has been forgiven by Him, but rather when they forgive people that have hurt them.
Do you keep a record of wrongs done to you or do you forgive the person and purge their record in your mind with the help of God’s grace? There are two types of people in the world: people that forgive those that have hurt them and people that are bitter and angry over past hurts.
Bitter people aren’t loving people. They see the injustice and wrong that has caused them pain and they want their pound of flesh. They keep a record of the incident and can recount it with clarity. Love enables you to forgive even when the other person doesn’t deserve it or even ask for it.
The root word for “bitterness” (Ephesians 4:31) has the idea of being pierced, as a peg is hammered into the ground to establish the ropes to hold up a tent. A bitter person is one that has had their heart pierced and wounded. An operational definition I have used for bitterness is “harbored hurt”. It is something one keeps, remembers, nurses and rehearses.
All of us have been hurt, disappointed and bitter. It is most often done by those closest to us. We are to forgive as God has forgiven us. If you require a person to deserve your forgiveness then it isn’t forgiveness at all, but justice. You are still obsessed with the way they have hurt you and still counting it to the ledger of justice in your mind.
The irony is that it hurts the bitter person more than the person that has hurt them. It’s true: bitterness does more damage to the container in which it is stored than the person upon which it is poured.
In a family we will hurt each other, more than any other environment. When we love each other we will not inventory and count the times we have been hurt. If we fail to do so we inevitably become bitter and the relationship cools. Love doesn’t focus on the incidents in which we are hurt, but on the good things the person has done.
I read about a South Pacific tribe that had made a virtue out of being resentful. They kept reminders of their offenses before them by hanging various items from the ceilings of their huts. This enabled them to keep the person that hurt them before their minds constantly.
You probably do not have any visible reminders of past hurts in your home, but they instead reside in your heart and mind. You see them again and again and the cycle of bitterness not only continues, but becomes more destructive.
Simply put, love doesn’t keep score of personal hurts. A personal question. Are you keeping account of being wronged? As long as you do so you cannot love this person and it will prevent you from the joy and peace God wants you to have. Whatever it is, release it today.
“To forgive is to permanently shed hurt feelings and to put something away. It means drawing a line under something and saying, ‘Finished’”. (Edward Crowther)