WoW: Bridges on Hatred and Love
In times of honesty I will admit to you that I like to pick at sore spots. If I know something will get a rise out of someone, I want to bring it up. This is just jesting, you know; no blood, no foul (Proverbs 26:18-19).
But Solomon doesn't see it this way. Solomon says that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. That seems a bit strong to most of us, on both counts. Surely hatred does stir up strife, but just because I poke the fire to keep it burning doesn't mean there's hatred in my heart. Surely not! And if someone has done something wrong, it is only right that others know so that they can protect themselves, right? If I keep silent and someone else gets hurt, well, that's no good.
How wicked are our hearts? How evil our desires? We deceive ourselves, and we commit sin under the guise of being holy and righteous. I'm not speaking here of doctrinal error. I know that false teachers need to be rebuked (see this post on scoffers or this post on false teachers) and their errors exposed. The issue here is sin and perceived sin (in some cases, we and those around us will define "sin" as people not living up to our standards, when real sin is when we do not live up to God's standards).
What I find in my own heart is the tendency to want to justify actions that point out the sins of others. I may have godly sounding reasons, but the reality is a desire to cause conflict. Fallen man is drawn to the colosseum. While most today may be too refined for that blatant of conflict, we create strife at work, or in the home, or at church; particularly in situations where we can be spectators and not directly involved.
A Simple but Forcible Contrast
But this is not how we should live. If we have been born again, God's love should be present in our lives and flowing out to others. The more we understand the greatness of our salvation, the more love will characterize our lives (Luke 7:47). As Bridges notes, forgiveness and love go hand in hand.
A simple but forcible contrast! Hatred, however varnished by smooth pretence, is the selfish principle of man (Titus 3:3). Like a subterraneous fire, it continually stirs up mischief, creates or keeps alive rankling coldness, disgusts, dislikes, "envyings and evil surmisings;" carps at the infirmities of others; aggravates the least slip (Isaiah 29:21); or resents the most trifling, or even imaginary, provocation. These strifes are kindled (Proverbs 15:18; 16:27-28; 28:25; 29:22) to the great dishonour of God, and the marring of the beauty and consistency of the gospel. Is not here abundant matter for prayer, watchfulness, and resistance? Let us study 1 Corinthians 13 in all its detail. Let it be the looking-glass for our hearts, and. the standard of our profession. Love covers, overlooks, speedily forgives and forgets (Proverbs 17:9; Genesis 45:5-8). Full of candour and inventiveness, it puts the best construction on doubtful matters, searches out any palliation [something that makes an offense seem less serious], does not rigidly eye, or wantonly expose (Genesis 9:23) a brother's faults; nor will it uncover them at all, except so far as may be needful for his ultimate good. To refrain from gross slander, while abundant scope is left for needless and unkind detraction, is not covering sin. Nor is the "seven-times forgiveness" the true standard of love (Matthew 18:21), which, like its Divine Author, covers all sins. And who does not need the full extent of this covering? What is our brother's all against us, compared with our all against God? And how can we hesitate to blot out a few pence, who look for the covering of the debt of ten thousand talents (Matthew 18:22-35)? Oh! let us "put on the Lord Jesus" in, his spirit of forbearing, disinterested, sacrificing love—"Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
So do we point out others faults to show how great is our discernment? Do we condemn those who stumble, when we should be restoring them (Galatians 6:1)? It was said of our Lord that "a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench." Is that the attitude you and I have toward those who are weak in their faith? What about those who have stumbled? Many need but a little correction and love to be back on the path of following Christ. Maybe one reason the church is failing in America is because we do not love enough to put an end to strife and cover offenses.
May it ever be so that my heart is willing to cover offenses, and does not in hatred stir up strife.