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“Love Does Not Keep a Record of Wrongs”

A Short Commentary On 1 Corinthians 13:5[d]

by Dr. Eitan Bar
3 minutes read

Gossip and “keeping a record of wrongs” are closely intertwined, reflecting a failure to grasp the grace of God fully. When people gossip, they often do so from a place of insecurity and fear. This is particularly prevalent among religious individuals who are constantly anxious about their afterlife and their standing before a God they perceive as capricious and tyrannical. In their minds, God is always looking to catch them in their failings, which leads to an internal conflict of sadness and grief mixed with a sense of relief and satisfaction when they learn of others who have sinned. This reaction stems from a deep-seated thought: “We are not as bad as they are.” Misery loves company, and this drives people to indulge in gossip.

Gossip not only diminishes others but also serves to elevate the gossiper, making them feel superior. From their self-constructed ivory tower, they look down on others, feeling the air is purer and closer to heaven because they are not sharing it with other sinners. I’ve been there myself and understand that false sense of elevation. It’s a deceptive comfort that blinds one to the true nature of grace and the call to love and forgive without keeping a record of wrongs. Maybe it was just me, and perhaps it was the toxic environment I was in, but for some reason, it seemed that the most religiously conservative individuals I knew—Christians and Jews alike—were the ones to remind me of my past errors, flaws, and transgressions. They would even use these against me in public, which, from a Jewish viewpoint, is deemed worse than death due to the fact the dead do not have to live with their shame (as if one’s conscience doesn’t punish enough already).

Keeping no record of wrongs speaks to love’s forgiving nature. This concept of not cataloging grievances is crucial for maintaining healthy, long-lasting relationships. It emphasizes the importance of releasing past hurts and viewing each new interaction with fresh eyes, unclouded by previous disappointments or resentments.

The early Christian community in Corinth faced numerous interpersonal conflicts, and Paul’s guidance aimed to foster unity and peace by encouraging a forgiving attitude among believers. By advising them not to keep a record of wrongs, Paul was not just offering moral instruction; he was providing a practical way to heal divisions and strengthen the bonds within the community. The act of holding onto past grievances does more than just strain relationships—it can lead to a pervasive bitterness that colors our entire outlook on life. When we catalog every slight or misstep others have made, we bind ourselves to a narrative of victimization and injustice, which can stifle our ability to experience joy and connection with others.

Furthermore, the principle of not keeping a record of wrongs invites us to consider the transformative power of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or condoning hurtful behavior; rather, it involves consciously letting go of the hold that past wrongs have on us. This aligns with the divine example of forgiveness, where God, through Christ, forgives humanity unconditionally “and their sins remember no longer” (Hebrews 8:12). This model challenges us to extend the same grace to others, recognizing that we, too, need forgiveness. Embracing this aspect of love means actively working against our natural inclinations to harbor resentment. It involves deliberately choosing to forgive, not just once but continually. Each act of forgiveness is both a release of the debtor and a liberation of the creditor, freeing both parties from the weight of unresolved anger and hurt.

In practice, living out this principle can lead to deeper, more resilient relationships. It encourages an environment where individuals feel safe to make mistakes and grow, knowing their missteps won’t be held against them indefinitely. This does not just benefit personal relationships but also enhances community and societal interactions, creating a culture of empathy and understanding.

Ultimately, the command to love without keeping a record of wrongs is about cultivating a heart that mirrors the heart of God—full of grace, rich in mercy, and boundless in love. It is a call to let go of past grievances to embrace the present and to foster relationships built on the firm foundation of unconditional love and forgiveness. This means setting healthy boundaries that protect oneself from harm while offering genuine grace and mercy. By doing so, we reflect God’s love in a way that promotes healing and respect, ensuring that love does not become an excuse for enduring mistreatment.

Forgiveness is a profound virtue that transforms individuals and societies by transcending cultural and religious boundaries. It involves a deliberate choice to release resentment and forego revenge, even when justified. Rooted in a selfless love exemplified by Jesus, who forgave even during his crucifixion, forgiveness embodies sacrificial love and demonstrates a deep strength that transcends the urge for retaliation.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not advocating for some kind of radical political pacifism. Love also means protecting those you love. However, we don’t kill criminals; we stop them and extend grace by allowing them to live, even attempting to rehabilitate them. If this is humanity’s expression of grace, imagine what God’s version would be like, considering He is infinitely more loving, forgiving, and compassionate than any of us!

This virtue not only liberates individuals from the burden of bitterness, enhancing personal well-being and peace, but also plays a critical role in societal reconciliation and peace. It halts cycles of vengeance, fosters resilience, and promotes healing, allowing communities to recover and rebuild from deep wounds. As a core element of Christian theology, forgiveness aligns with divine mercy, enhancing spiritual growth and embodying the essence of humanity’s capacity to overcome divisions.

This article is from my book, “The Theology of Love: Christianity’s Most Underrated Doctrine.

The Theology of Love

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist