A Gift That Doesn’t Count (1 Corinthians 13:5)

MOTIVATE

One of my favorite stories from this season is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It was first published in 1843, and today has a couple dozen movie adaptations.[1] The popular character in this story is Ebenezer Scrooge, and he has become a profound symbol of transformation from the magic and love of Christmas.

Ebenezer Scrooge was a great in business.

  • Worked early & stayed late.
  • Common product with high margins.
  • Skeleton org. with minimal employees & nominal wages.
  • Precise bookkeeping of every cent for what people owed, and high interest returns.

Ebenezer was poor in relationships.

  • Missed marriage due to married to his job and selfishness.
  • Family hurt by past pride, unrepentance, jealousy, anger outbursts, and selfishness.  

So, what changed Ebenezer from a miserly scrooge to a generous benefactor???

Let’s turn to our advent series in 1 Corinthians 13.  

Refresh

  • Reading the Nativity accounts in the Gospels are nostalgic at Christmas time, but they are noteworthy for any season to learn the doctrine of Jesus Christ and understand God’s intent to rescue us.
  • Reading the resurrection chronicles in the Gospels are ideal for Easter season, but they are equally important for any time to know the core of Christianity and understand the hope we have in heaven.
  • Psalm 23 is generally read at funerals but it’s helpful to know we have a Good Shepherd guiding us through all of life.
  • Likewise, 1 Corinthians 13 “love chapter” is familiar to weddings but is relevant to the fullness of life and relationships.

So, here we are studying 1Cor13

EXAMINE              

1 Corinthians 13 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or not rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or love is not resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love overcomes resentment with gospel reconciliation.

Other translations are helpful, “love keeps no account of wrongs.”[2] Paul’s wording λογίζομαι is an accounting term used for bookkeeping or tracking debts. Paul is explaining that love does not have a long ledger to add or subtract.

For the Corinthians’, their ledger was long and full of conflict. They disputed at home, debated in church, and took their personal problems to public court. It seemed to be a long ledger of offenses, disappointment, hurt, anger, bitterness, and brokenness.

Paul challenged the Corinthians to overcome resentment with reconciliation. While forgiveness is the first step of reconciliation, the restoration of a relationship is a marathon journey of multiple steps.

The Corinthians received forgiveness when they repented of sin and established a faith relationship with God.

  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed and the new has come… [because] in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and not entrusting to us the message of reconciliation…. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:17-21)

Becoming a Christian implies at least three realities

  1. We have been reconciled to God.
    Imagine, standing before God with an angel ready to read a long ledger, or opening a cabinet with multiple file drawers listing your sins to be read before a colossal crowd. Each one would bring you significant shame and has the power to sentence you to eternal hell. Yet, before anything can be read, Jesus silences the angel and shuts the ledger. He brings out another book – the scarlet book of redemption – and next to your name it says, “paid in full.”
    If we have trusted in Jesus by repenting of sin and receiving His grace, then God sees us through the standing of Jesus. We are saved and justified. Being justified has a catchy connotation, “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justification is better than that – because if we’d never sinned, we’d still only be morally neutral. We would still be like Adam and have his inherited sin nature. However, Christians have the greater Adam – Jesus Christ. In Christ, God not only views us as indeterminate virtue but with imputed righteousness. Jesus subtracts our sin and adds to our account perfect righteousness.
    1. Ps 103:3 “If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, who could stand?”
    1. Ps 32:1-2; Rom 4:8 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not count their sin.”
    1. Gal 2:16 “We know that a person is not counted righteous by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”

  2. Though reconciled, we are being renewed through regular repentance and faith. When a woman and man state their vows on their wedding day to love and to cherish, until death do us part, they are committing not only to a single day but a lifetime of faithfulness and forgiveness, so that their love does not grow cold. Likewise, God’s salvation is permanent, but our sanctification is a process. We grow in our faith by listening to His word, loving His people, and leading others to follow Jesus. Further, we learn from our mistakes and repent of our sin that we might be closer to God’s heart not separated from Him.
    1. 2 Cor 4:16 “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
    1. 2 Cor 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

3. We are ambassadors for reconciliation.

  • Jesus didn’t delegate to the U.S. Supreme Court to legislate His commandments.

  • Jesus didn’t employ universities or education boards to teach His wisdom and ways.

  • Instead, Jesus named disciples after Himself, and calls Christians to be salt and light.
Christians are salt amid decay and light among darkness. We strive to turn enemies of the cross to become friends and family in Christ’s church.
The church is an embassy of heaven with followers of Jesus as its ambassadors. We are citizens of God’s kingdom living as sojourners in an earthly nation. Our politics are faith, hope, and love. Our platform is every neighborhood and all nations. Our purpose is making it hard to go to hell from Severna Park.

Paul is communicating 3 realities of Christianity to Corinthians: √reconciled, √renewal, √ambassadors. Other religions lack these realities, so unbelievers/individuals have uncertainty about hope, unrest in present (drained / burned out), and are unconcerned about meaningful impact.

So, Paul writes the Corinthians to love without resentment, or keeping a record of wrongs because we have an unshakable confidence and security in God’s love for us.

How can we love w/o resentment/keeping record of wrongs?

  1. Remember we live in a fallen world. While we know this truth, we often forget it and get bent out of shape, or worse lose our faith witness in response to the shortcomings of others. Ultimately, this world is full of sinners who damage what is good, twist what is true, and wound what is fragile. By remembering the fallenness of humanity we do not lose heart or hope.
    Prov 24:17 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”1 Cor 15:58 “Therefore, beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”2 Cor 4:8-9 “We are pressured in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”Gal 6:9 “We must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.”Eph 5:16 “make the most of the time because the days are evil.”
    Php 3:18-19 “Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A key to remembering our fallen world is remembering a person’s sin is against God before ourselves.

2. Resist revenge. A secular proverb to remember before seeking revenge is that we should first dig two graves.[3] In other words, revenge doesn’t lead to relief but ruin. Paybacks lead to setbacks. Instead of retaliation we should release persons to God.

  • 1 Thes 5:15 “See that no one repays evil for evil, but pursue what is good for one another”

Before seeking revenge we should first dig two graves. In other words, revenge doesn’t lead to relief but ruin. Paybacks lead to setbacks. Instead of retaliation we should release persons to God. #forgive

3. Really forgive. Pretend forgiveness can be hurtful as much as the offense. We know forgiveness is not easy, and we can second-guess if we have really forgiven someone. But one of the indications that we have really forgiven someone is that we are able to pray that the offender receives God’s grace and bless them with good.

  • Lk 6:28 “Bless those who curse you.”

One of the indications that we have really forgiven someone is that we are able to pray that the offender receives God’s grace and bless them with good.

Holding a grudge internalizes instead of heals the wound. When we hurt, we are tempted to hurt others in return, whether it’s the offender or someone else. It is common to become bitter instead of better because we nurse our sadness and indulge our anger instead of truly forgiving someone.

Forgiveness does not mean we pretend the pain didn’t happen. It’s not faking that we are fine. It’s pardoning the person from an eternal punishment, though sometimes earthly consequences may remain. A pardon for sin does not automatically result in reinstated relationship. Rebuilding trust takes time.

Forgiveness makes four promises:

  1. I will not re-litigate your offense. Some people respond with hysterics, others get historical and repeat the conflict.[4] But agape love does not keep a record of wrongs.
  2. I will not repeat your offense and gossip to others.
  3. I will pray for God’s grace in your life & think/do good to you.
  4. I will allow our relationship to rebuild trust and friendship.  

Forgiveness does not mean we pretend pain didn’t happen. It’s not faking we’re fine. It’s pardoning from an eternal punishment, though sometimes earthly consequences remain. A pardon for sin does not automatically result in reinstated relationship. Rebuilding trust takes time.

4. Rehearse the gospel in your head and heart. Though challenging, many of us can work through a process to forgive others but have difficulty receiving forgiveness. When we have caused disappointment or created hurt for others, then we can regularly replay this moment that we feel overwhelming fear, guilt, and shame. While we cannot forgive ourselves, we can rehearse the forgiveness declared over us. A few practical helps in this area:

  • Learn from your mistakes. While we will not be perfect, repeating the same mistakes makes us foolish. So, learning and growing helps us move forward in victory over sin and shame. (Php 3:13-14 “Beloved, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of [perfect maturity]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”)

  • Let gospel inspired music feed your soul. Music is one of God’s means to lift up our emotions and train (and retrain) our mindset. Consider King Saul’s emotional outbursts, jealousy, anger, and rage. But David played music to settle Saul (1 Sam 16:14-23). Singing magnifies God instead of our sin and struggles. (Lk 1:46) “Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the greatness of the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”) Paul instructs Christians tossing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16).

APPLY/THINK

Charles Dickens writes,

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further interaction with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

“love covers a multitude of sins” (1Peter 4:8).

Unfortunately, some prefer sniffing out other’s dirty laundry and digging buried skeletons. But the one who understands God’s grace and love have come down prefers the aroma of frankincense and myrrh. We adore the infant born King of kings and Lord of lords. We worship at the feet who has wiped away the record of wrongs and has loved us with an unfailing love.


[1] https://www.dickenslondontours.co.uk/a-christmas-carol-films.htm

[2] https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/13-5.htm

[3] https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/07/07/two-graves/

[4] J.D. Greear sermon on 1 Corinthians 13.

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