1 Corinthians 13:7, speaking of love, says that Love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
We've recently heard some important truths about love from 1 Corinthians 13. I've been greatly challenged in this regard during this season where we're spending much time at home, that love for our near and dear ones right now during Covid is spelled like this: P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E, as our Brother Wenhai shared a couple of weeks back. This verse also emphasizes the same: love bears all things (patience) and endures all things (patience!)
And in verse 7 of this chapter, it also says that love "Hopes all things". That characteristic of love is not a truth I've meditated much on in the past, but I believe the Lord has given me some more understanding of recently what it means.
I remember praying over the years during different instances when people would be consistently acting harshly toward me, praying something to this effect: “Lord, bring them to repentance.”
The most recent times I've done that, perhaps over the past year or so, I couldn’t tell what the reason was, but I haven't had a total peace as I prayed that. I felt that it was the right prayer for them and I was confident that’s what they needed - to be convicted of their sin, to see it and repent.
But recently the Lord spoke to my heart what the issue was with that, why I didn’t have a peace - why my prayer was not right. He showed me something about myself. It was not that the words were wrong, but there were a few major problems with my MOTIVE as I prayed it:
1. I was praying with a selfish motive. My desire was that they’d repent, but it wasn't mainly for their good or for God’s glory, but it was because I felt that their sin was hurting me. I was basically just airing my frustration with these people toward God hoping He'd do something to intervene.
I wasn’t praying primarily ‘Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done’ to the Lord, I was praying mainly for ‘my’ kingdom.
When I saw the selfishness of that, I saw that there was a lack of love in myself toward others, and also a dull heart toward the Lord and His kingdom. The new covenant is much more about motive and attitude than about accuracy of our words. And selfishness is just as evident in prayer as it is in other areas.
I was challenged by Moses' heart when I saw this prayer of Moses to God:
For if you destroy them, the Egyptians will say, “It is because the Lord wasn’t able to bring them to the land he promised them,” or “He destroyed them because he hated them: he brought them into the wilderness to slay them.” Deuteronomy 9:28
When Moses prayed for God to preserve Israel, his motive wasn't even mainly Israel's good, it was primarily God’s glory. What an example Moses was of the fear of God and love for the Lord! I want such love for God that His glory would be my driving motive and ambition like that. When I saw that of Moses it renewed the challenge for me to go that same direction, to have God's glory at the center of my hope.
2. Secondly, I saw that I should never focus on a negative aspect, or a lack in someone without also having a hope for them. I should never judge anyone without also having a hope for their good.
A Christ-like heart is one full of hope for God's good first, and then a hope for the good of others. When I prayed that the Lord would bring others to repentance, I didn’t really have their good in mind. I had my good in mind, but "love hopes all things" - love hopes for the eternal good of the other person.
When I prayed before for others to repent, I wasn’t thinking of joyful thoughts of them being freed from sins and closer to Jesus, it didn’t cross my mind. I just wanted them to stop what they were doing!
One specific instance when I was praying this for someone, the Lord reminded me of some years earlier when this person I was thinking of had helped me and encouraged me in some very significant ways. I realized how much I was blessed some years earlier by this person, and I told the Lord, “Please forgive me Lord, I owe this person a lot.” When I repented of that, it changed my heart toward them and then I could freely seek the Lord for their good again. This time though, I really did have a real hope for their good. No matter who the person is, there's always something to appreciate about them. To focus on that instead of the negatives can help us have a hope for them, because that's exactly what the Lord does for us.
Proverbs 19:11 "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression."
3. One last thing the Lord showed me as I prayed this:
“You don’t know all the details.”
Some of what I have felt I've seen of sin in others, have only been facts that I was assuming, and some of it I had actually not experienced firsthand myself but I heard second-hand from someone else. And the Lord reminded me, that I have to be very, very careful about assuming I know the the spiritual state of someone merely based on "what my eyes see", and "what my ears hear."
I was reminded that I’ve been given so much, and that it’s only by the grace of God if I may not have some specific struggle that some other person has (1 Cor 4:7). But I don’t see what struggles others have had in their private life, I don’t see their motives or the reasons why they may do certain things, I don't see their secret sufferings or what they haven't been given which God has freely given me.
A disciple of Jesus should beware of believing and hearing gossip, and also assume the best about others.
One word I read in CFC's recent "Word for the week" which I believe is related has stuck with me: "Discernment is a Divine quality, but suspicion is a Satanic quality."
Love isn't always suspecting evil, assuming the worst about people. We should discern, but without love and a hope for another, it's not discernment, it's a spirit of suspicion, and tends to assume bad about others. I'm seeing that the heart of God always has a joy at the thought of good for others. If we desire God's judgment to come on what we perceive as sinful people because of what we see as evil in them (whether difficult relatives, or corrupt politicians, or ungodly coworkers, etc), I believe to that Jesus would say, "You don't know what kind of spirit you are of" (Luke 9:55, 2 Pet 3:9).
So to sum up, I’m taking with me these 3 lessons:
1. Pray with God’s kingdom in mind first and also the good of others, not my own selfish motives.
2. Never focus on or judge a lack in someone without also having a genuine hope for them.
3. I don’t know all the details, be careful what I assume about others. I’ve been given so much, don’t look down on anyone, I have no idea what their struggles are in private.
I’m thankful the Lord has used these words of conviction He spoke to my heart in order to help me cleanse my inner character of some bad unChristlike things toward others, praise God.