1 Corinthians 13 Part 12: Love Does not Rejoice in Unrighteousness but Rejoices in the Truth
1 Corinthians 13:6 Love is not taking delight in the misfortunes of others or cheer for sin; Love celebrates God’s truth
“Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;”
1 Corinthians 13:6 NASB1995
We live in a world full of people expressing glee and delight when another person fails, especially if that person is a hated member of another political party, or a celebrity, sports star, or (especially) an evangelist minister who loudly parades their virtues, then crashes to the ground in a major scandal. The Germans even invented a word for this: Schadenfreude, meaning “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others”. This devilish and dehumanizing feeling drives the popularity of things like gossip tabloids and failure videos, where we can watch some other poor fool crash their car or fall down a set of stairs or gleefully hear about a celebrity having a difficult time. People in the UK held huge rallies to cheer the death of former Primer Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013; regardless of your opinion of Mrs. Thatcher, that is despicable behavior. I’m surprised this cartoon hasn’t come true:
The abuse revelations that have rocked the Catholic Church and the downfall of many prominent evangelists in sex or financial scandals, like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and the much more recent Hillsong Scandal, arm the secular troops with plenty of ammunition to say that all Christians are bigoted hypocrites and deserve nothing but scorn. These critics delight in the unrighteousness that they observe and are eager to see the demise of Christianity because they despise its teachings and also despise those who follow those teachings.
But if we are to love in the ways that Paul defines it, we do not rejoice in unrighteousness OR in the hardships that other people suffer. Anything that is wrong in God’s sight grieves a heart that is full of love. To fully understand this passage, it is worthwhile to explore four of the key words that are used in this verse:
The first “rejoice” comes from the Greek word Chairo, with the following relevant definitions:
to rejoice, be glad
to rejoice exceedingly
“Unrighteousness” is from the Greek word Adikia; these are the more relevant definitions:
unrighteousness of heart and life
A deed violating law and justice, act of unrighteousness
Also from Strong’s definitions: Morally wrong
The second “rejoice” is Sygchairo and has slightly different definitions to Chairo:
To rejoice with, take part in another's joy
to rejoice together, to congratulate
Finally, “truth” comes from Aletheia, with several relevant definitions as Objective Truth (there are also definitions for relative truth, which is not Biblical truth):
what is true in any matter under consideration
truly, in truth, according to truth
of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly
what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth
in the greatest latitude
the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention
the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians
I find it most fascinating that the first “rejoice” is more personal in its definitions, reflecting the fact that when you rejoice in someone else’s unrighteousness, that emotion is not shared by that other person. The second “rejoice” is a shared action, meaning that we are together with others when we rejoice in the truth. True joy demands fellowship. Also, note that objective truth opposes the corruption and precepts of false teachers, but our love should not rejoice when those teachers fail, but only rejoice when they are redeemed.
Precept Austin has an excellent excerpt from a Ray Pritchard sermon (from Keep Believing Ministries) about this passage:
"Love does not delight in evil. It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, is not glad about injustice, and is not happy when evil triumphs. And it takes no joy in hearing evil openly discussed. Love is never glad to hear bad news about another person. Love never says, "Well, they finally got what they deserved." Love is never happy to hear that a brother or sister fell into sin. Love does not enjoy passing along bad news. This certainly goes against the grain of modern life. We all know that "Bad news sells" and that good news goes on page 75. That's why they put those supermarket tabloids right by the checkout counter. We all want to hear the latest juicy gossip about our favorite celebrities. True love isn't like that. It turns away from cheap gossip and unsubstantiated rumors. And even when the rumor turns out to be true, love takes no pleasure in the misfortunes of others.
Steven Cole has a cautionary take on this love that is another way to look at this passage. We should never cheer for unrighteousness and sin to take front and center in our lives or the lives of anyone else. What happens in Vegas should definitely stay in Vegas (and we should stay away from the temptations):
There is a fine balance to love. Although love is kind and overlooks the faults of others, it does not compromise the truth or take a soft view of sin. To allow another person to go on in sin, whether it is known sin or a blind spot, is not to seek his best; it is not love. Love will sensitively confront and correct precisely because it cares deeply and knows that sin destroys. Love rejoices with the truth. Love gets excited when it hears of spiritual victories. Love encourages by expressing joy over little evidences of growth. John, the apostle of love, wrote, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
Rejoice together in the truth, which should never be compromised for sin or evil! Turn away from maliciousness and groupthink social media behaviors that delight in the misfortunes of others; never cheer for unrighteousness to triumph. It’s time to add those who are suffering, especially in sin, to your prayer list, not your daily schadenfreude fix.
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:7a: Love Bears All Things.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me to truly love others so that I don’t rejoice in their failings or take delight in their difficulties, but to rejoice with them when we are in your Truth. Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Steven Cole sermons on Bible.org are copyrighted 1995.