Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 CEB
14 I’m not writing these things to make you ashamed but to warn you, since you are my loved children. 15 You may have ten thousand mentors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. I gave birth to you in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 16 so I encourage you to follow my example. 17 This is why I’ve sent Timothy to you; he’s my loved and trusted child in the Lord; he’ll remind you about my way of life in Christ Jesus. He’ll teach the same way as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Some have become arrogant as if I’m not coming to see you. 19 But, if the Lord is willing, I’ll come to you soon. Then I won’t focus on what these arrogant people say, but I’ll find out what power they possess. 20 God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power. 21 Which do you want? Should I come to you with a big stick to punish you, or with love and a gentle spirit?
Theme- Love rejoices in truth not evil
- What is the connection between “Love does not delight in evil” in 1 Cor. 13:6 and Paul not wanting the Corinthians to feel shame in 4:13?
- Is there a difference, for you, between mentor and father? Why do you think Paul is so insistent about his role as father? And who fills these roles for you?
- Love and gentleness are often seen as opposed to power and yet Paul discusses these characteristics as equal to power, reflect on this point and ask how you measure power and are these characteristics associated with the people you see as “powerful” what about you?
- What is your reaction when a person you do not like or with whom you disagree fails, or is publicly shamed? How do you react when someone you love fails?
- How do you react when someone you agree with uses half-truths to win an argument or belittle another person?
“[Love] does not rejoice in evil” in 13:6 is about rejoicing when evil befalls others (esp. those we oppose)
There are a few times in 1 Corinthians where Paul chides the church for caring more about prestige, power, and winning than having a strong commitment to Jesus. Sexuality in ch. 5, lawsuits in ch. 6, fights over leaders and spiritual gifts throughout the book.
“[Love] rejoices in truth” is about holding to the truth even when disclosing the full truth harms your position, influence, power, or prestige, or those you love.
1 Cor. 4:1-14 is Paul addressing the fact that his love for the Corinthians requires him to call out their bad behavior and push them toward correction the way a father would because that is how they will grow in Jesus.
At first glance Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” do not seem tightly related, nor do they seem terribly original. Of course, Christian love truth and hate evil, everyone knows that. However, like so many other places Paul has a very specific idea in mind. In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul feels the need to remind the church that his words I’m not meant to be overly harsh or critical but come from a position of love. This gives us some insight into what Paul means when he discusses where love rejoices. Paul does not want the Corinthian church to think that he is gloating over their failures and shortcomings. He wants them to understand that he is bringing up these issues because he cares for them. In later chapters he’s going to talk about illicit relationships that the church has condoned, the bickering over power, the gamesmanship in lawsuits, the spiritual one Upton ship all of which are contrary to the spirit of Jesus. Paul here sets out his motivation for bringing up these sins by putting himself in the role a father. Paul tells the Corinthians that they have many mentors himself as a father, the implication is that though both fathers and mentors will give good advice and show you a proper path to live only a father would call out bad behavior. This is especially true in Paul’s world where a family’s actions or a direct reflection on the father’s status within the community. Paul is telling the Corinthian church not only that they have not lived up to Jesus’ standards, not only that he loves them and wants them to do better, but their actions are bringing down his reputation in the wider world.
This passage in 1 Corinthians 4 Gives us a glimpse into 1 Corinthians 13:6 and the phrase “love does not rejoice in evil.” as with everything in first Corinthians 13 Paul is not talking about what we love but how we respond two people we love. In this case, we do not rejoice when the people we love fail or in some way fall short. Or do we rejoice with those we love when we choose to be caught up in most things we consider evil; rather we rejoice the people we love or vindicated by the truth. It is easy to recognize this with relationships like a spouse or children or friends who we want to see succeed and can be devastated to see fail. But perhaps you had siblings growing up and can remember laughing or smiling when your parents punished them for something they did wrong. Paul wants us to recognize that is not a loving reaction, a loving reaction is to mourn over their hardship and to help the brother or sister correct themselves so they do not fall under punishment again. Too often in the church we treat our fellow Christians with this same reaction, smiling at their shortcomings, when love reminds that we should grieve.
When we read 1 Corinthians 4 we are reminded that Paul was not happy with the failings of the Corinthians, and his grief was rooted in the fact that he wanted something better for them. His sorrow meant he took action to truly help those he loved—he wrote them, he sent Timothy, and he planned to visit them personally. We must begin by asking who are we called to love: our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our enemies, those who wrong us. Our commitment to love these people means we cannot celebrate when they fail, we do not rejoice at the evil in their lives. No, we grieve at the reality of evil and we rejoice when these people walk in the truth. Let us no longer celebrate the failings of others, but grieve in their wrongs and rejoice as they come to truth.