The question in the title of this post, “What does Love do about Suffering?” is not fully answered in one sentence of Scripture. It was a real challenge to understand even this one sentence. Someone who suffers endless pain and unjust abuse might ask how God could expect such an attitude. To that person the answer is that the Bible is not just one verse. In contemporary public discourse, people like to shout one or two verses of Scripture and claim that they say what God wants us to do. People who completely reject God can quote Scripture. Satan himself quotes Scripture, and the temptation of Jesus is a perfect example of the way Satan perverts God’s holy Truth in Scripture for his own purposes. Satan will tell a suffering person, “God doesn’t care about you. God is telling you to stop noticing that anybody is hurting you. If you remember being hurt or recall who hurt you and start telling about the way they hurt you, you are a bad person. God will remember that you don’t love people.”
This is not the lesson of the Bible. God is a God of justice, and this lesson about refusing to keep track of the wrongs done against you is not about promoting injustice. It is about refusing to be a victim.
When a person is unjustly abused, injured or killed, we usually call that person a victim. A victim is the recipient of unjust pain. A person could be a victim in an auto accident, or in a lawsuit, or in a murder. The victim is the one who receives the bad consequences of somebody else’s behavior. In that sense, it is not wrong to call a person a victim. Outside people may rightly recognize when someone else has been victimized.
Such events, however, do not make a person into a permanent victim. If someone breaks into my house and steals my computer and my jewelry, I am the victim of that crime. However, I do not need to go around telling everyone in sight about the crime, asking for sympathy, bewailing my fate, and demanding that the world stop until I am recompensed for this outrage. Further, ten years later, I do not need to tell someone I just met about the worst night of my life when I was robbed. If I do that, then I am consumed with keeping records of the wrongs done to me. I am no longer a person with a life, a job, friends, and a future. I am simply the victim of a mindless crime. I might even refuse to go to work the next day out of “fear” that the crime might be repeated. I might lose my job and never seek work again, because I don’t think I should work so hard just to have somebody steal my possessions. What is the point? I could become a permanent victim if I chose to devote my life to keeping a record of that crime. Maybe the police never find the robber, and I could record the way they failed me. Maybe my neighbors tell me that it happens to everyone in that neighborhood, and I could record how heartless they all are.
When I take a look at what it means to keep a real record of wrongs done to me, I see that the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13:5 is much bigger than a casual reminder to “forgive and forget.” That simple sentence opens the door to a much bigger teaching about feeling sorry for myself and thinking I am the most important person in the world and believing that the meaning of my life is all wrapped up in the injustice I have experienced. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Life is not ‘fair.” Get over it.” Yet in the context of the whole chapter, it does not stop there. It points the reader to the bigger context of God’s plan for each individual and for all people. When Paul writes about knowing as he is known, he point us to a very different way of viewing our suffering, the unjust abuse and wrongs we suffer at the hands of other people.
When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, he suffered a terrible injustice. Nothing he had ever done to the brothers justified such behavior, and what’s worse, this behavior insured that nobody who could rescue him would ever even know where he was. If Joseph had chosen to keep a record of that wrong, he could have dug his own grave and pulled it in after him in the slave market of Egypt. Instead, twenty years later, when Joseph was face to face with those vile, deceitful brothers again, he said, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph lived by 1 Corinthians 13:5 long before it was written. He refused to be a victim, and because of that attitude that could go on loving his brothers and refusing to keep records of their sins, he saved the family of Jacob and protected the path for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
The Bible teaches us what the Bible means. There are many ways to study the Bible. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our divine teacher, they all lead us to God’s truth.
What does Love do about Suffering? Love refuses to keep a record of the wrongdoing and trusts God to bring about justice, righteousness, and the fulfillment of all his promises. Love is not about being a CPA of wrongs suffered. Love refuses to be a victim. “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5