(Love) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6)
If you love with God’s love, you will rejoice with the truth. Love doesn’t thrill in wrongdoing or iniquity but in truth. This verse pits two things against each other. Doing so leaves no room for question. The statement firmly says one thing is worthy of rejoicing and one is not.
Anything that is unrighteous is wrong according to God’s perspective. It’s what’s counter to God’s will in morality, characteristic, behavior, or attitude. And this isn’t just a personal issue; it’s a community and kingdom issue. God’s love doesn’t delight in the downfall of anyone. Any fall from righteousness, any step outside of God’s will, either willful or by neglect, is not to be revered or celebrated. Some people are only happy at the misery of others, and that’s unrighteousness. It’s not possible to show God’s love while being unloving. Love doesn’t gossip, rejoice in others’ downfalls or failures, or discourage others. Unrighteousness divides. Truth unites.
Let’s dig a little deeper. To portray God’s love, we can’t delight in unrighteousness or wrongdoing. How do we respond when someone does something corrupt or immoral, especially when it’s someone we really don’t like all that much—a sports figure, politician, or celebrity? How quickly will we attack the person, calling them out, ridiculing them, or exposing them?
God’s love isn’t focused on or content to denounce wrong. It’s not about exposing the wrong for humiliation or to gain support against someone. That’s not God’s love. Instead, the goal is to help the person turn from the wrongdoing and recognize God’s willingness, even longing, to heal and save. No exceptions. Just because someone has a sketchy past, just because there’s a longstanding pattern of unrighteous behavior, just because the person is on the opposing aisle of politics or values doesn’t give us the justification to respond in unrighteousness.
If this verse stopped after the first phrase, we might be able to justify our heated confrontation, but there’s more. “But” is an important word, because it indicates how we’re supposed to respond in God’s love. Instead of rejoicing in unrighteousness—instead of joining the ranks of wrongdoing even when we’re responding to someone else’s wrongdoing—we are to rejoice in truth of God’s love. If we love God, we respond with action that reflects God’s love.
Love isn’t ignorant. It doesn’t ignore unrighteousness. It knows the truth of the wrongdoing but loves enough to move toward the best possible. Jesus loved us while we were still sinners, and He provides us the example of how we can love others regardless of where others are, showing them His love. Love finds the truth and rejoices in it. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not have something truthful within them. After all, everyone is created in God’s image. That in and of itself is truthful, loving, and worth rejoicing.
Dear God, this one steps on my toes, because I know that I am not always loving with people who are behaving so clearly in opposition to God’s will. I have difficulty finding any truth to rejoice in and alongside them. You challenge me to see the world, including people, with the eyes of Your love and truth instead of my distortion and misrepresentation. I trust You.