Does not Delight in Evil, but Rejoices with the Truth

Reading: Acts 9.26-30
As we think about today's reading, we realise the extremely difficult position in which the new Christian convert, Saul of Tarsus, found himself. He could expect no friendly welcome from his old associates. Yet, on the other hand, trying to associate with the disciples of Jesus, he found them understandably cautious - was he genuine? or was this some new trick of the arch-persecutor of Christians?

I wonder if Paul remembered his own experience when he later wrote, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13.6), or, as another translation puts it, "Love does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in the truth" (N.E.B.).

I'm not suggesting, of course, that the Christians were at all happy about Saul's earlier violence. But this had become for them the truth about Saul. They knew how to react to him. If, as true Christians, they learnt to love their enemy, they apparently had no thought that his attitudes and life might change - partly through the quality of Christian living that he saw!

There aren't really many people in the community who are pleased about evil. But there is a lot of gossip that goes around. This often aims at satisfying our own sense of goodness. And if we can see that someone else is wrong, it so easily boosts our own sense of being right. Because of this, we can secretly not really want someone else to change, or, if they do, we want it to be in a way that shows that we were right and they were wrong.

But here is Saul, having gone out with hate and bitterness toward followers of the Way, having discovered that Jesus is alive and been changed by the healing and renewing love of God! Here is Saul, coming back, not for an I-told-you-so, but for Christian love and fellowship!

"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

What is the truth? That's like the question Pilate asked Jesus (Jn 18.38). For Pilate, truth was the evidence that might ultimately prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. It was something to be sought by sifting through the evidence given, which may well be distorted or false. The truth might be kind, but it could also be cruel and unpalatable; it might be encouraging, but it could be crushing and depressing. But Pilate recognised that Jesus was talking about Truth in the absolute.

The Truth, finally and absolutely, is to be found in God, his character and purposes for this world, his saving acts and his Kingdom established in the hearts and lives of people. In one sense, God's Law, condemning human sin, gives us the solemn truth about our human condition, yet finally the Truth is only clearly and fully seen when we are saved, forgiven, renewed in Christ (note Jn 1.17).

Some people seem to delight in meting out "the bitter truth" about others - but this isn't love.

I believe we need to be not only honestly realistic about people as we find them, but open to the truth of God's potential for them. In the light of this awareness, we must always be lovingly prayerful and prayerfully loving towards them.

PRAYER: Eternal Lord, forgive me the half-truths I believe and live with. Forgive me for the pleasure I have when someone else is wrong. Forgive me for my unwillingness to see my own mistakes. Forgive me that I fail to see that I myself and others too can only reach the truth that your love plans for us in Jesus, Amen.

The Love of God

The Love of God
the world
with purposeful
with order
and rhythm
with people
of intelligence
made capable
of responding
to the Presence
and Love of the Creator.

The Love of God
for the world of people
gone astray
in rejection and hate.

The Love of God
poured out
in a Person
in a Life
in a Death
by those who cared not
yet given for them.

The Love of God
and the risen Lord
reaching out
to the world
through the love
who have been found
and have found in him
their life.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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