The group laughed as they concluded how naïve and gullible Christians must be.
This imaginary discussion included Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and other like-minded critics. Their focus had been upon the qualities of Christian agapē-love (1 Corinthians 13:7) introduced in the previous post.
If Christian love “believes all things, hopes all things,” how absurd can that be? Nietzsche and company interpreted this to mean that love believed anything and everything—no matter how deceptive and untrue; that love hoped anything and everything—no matter how ridiculous and outrageous. It just proved, in their minds, how out-of-touch Christians were with reality.
If the critics deigned to invite a critique of their position, they would hear at least three corrections.
First, they ignored the context of these qualities of love. Anyone can tear words out of their context and twist them to mean anything they want. Integrity requires that we understand a statement within its context to hear what it really says.
Second, the context includes 16 qualities, all of which are necessary.
For instance, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (13:6). So, believing all things must be consistent with opposing unrighteousness and rejoicing with the truth, which is inconsistent with believing “anything and everything.”
Third, and most importantly, agapē-love is the very nature of God. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), which we explored earlier in “What is love?”
God is neither naïve nor gullible!
Let me take this a step farther: God expresses this agapē-love in and through Jesus.
Gordon Fee supports this proposition when he writes,
“in this paragraph [1 Corinthians 13:4-7] Paul seems best to capture the life and ministry of Jesus. So much so that one could substitute his name for the noun ‘love’ and thereby describe love in a more personal way.”
How then does Jesus’ love exhibit “believing all things”?
Here is an illustration from John 4 of how Jesus loves by believing all things.
Please take a moment to refresh your memory of John 4.
Jesus is sitting by himself at a well in a Samaritan town. It is about the “sixth hour”—that is high noon—and probably hot.
A lone Samaritan woman approaches to draw water from the well. Why is she alone and drawing water in the heat of the day? As we read on, we realize that she is probably a social pariah, an embarrassment within her community.
Jesus initiates the conversation with, “Will you give me a drink?”
The woman replies, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.”
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with this ethnic distinction, John adds: “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” The reason is that Samaritans are disdained because of their ethnicity, their religion, their culture—everything about them is objectionable to the Jews. You can learn about the origins of the Samaritans in 2 Kings 17:24-41.
At one point, Jesus says, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
To which she responds, “I have no husband.”
Somehow, Jesus is aware of the woman’s deflection and uncovers the truth:
“you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
We are not told what happened to her five husbands. But whatever the history, this woman is a six-time loser in her relationships. Why is she not married to “the man you now have”? She might be seen as ‘spoiled goods,’ no longer suitable to be a wife—only fit for carrying water, cooking meals, and warming a bed. She is despised as a Samaritan by Jewish standards and rejected by her own Samaritan community.
This woman would be painfully aware of all these factors—they were her limiting beliefs.
Jesus was about to change all that.
I do not sense any judgment in the words or behavior of Jesus.
He initiates a conversation that leads to the desires of the heart.
He uncovers a deflection, demonstrating that he already knows all about her. There is no need for her to cover her past failures or her present shame.
Then Jesus reveals himself to her by declaring, “I AM is speaking to you.” (For more on the “I AM” title, see “I AM—Jesus”).
In this condensed scene, Jesus demonstrates that “love believes all things.”
How is that?
Jesus willingly speaks with this Samaritan woman when most shun her.
Among other things, he spoke to her about a perpetual spring of water, eternal life, worship, and the Messiah. We might think these topics are inappropriate for a woman in her situation—she should be corrected, counseled, or given some other kind of help. Jesus spoke the way he did because he knew she yearned for genuine love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
He knew her past and present without condoning or condemning.
Jesus treated this woman as a person who could be so much more than she was. His love for her “believed all things” about what God wanted for her, thereby opening doors and windows that she long thought were closed and locked.
In many ways, the Samaritan woman is no different than the rest of us.
Our times and places may be different. The causes for our failures and shame are different. Yet, we also yearn for love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
And like this Samaritan woman, Jesus loves us and believes all things about us with the desire that we can become what God the Father intends us to be.
He simply asks that you accept what he offers you.
In similar ways, love “hopes all things,” which we will come to in the next post.
Photo credit: I am unable to find a proper attribution. This image is also used at https://pastordaveonline.org/2020/08/12/love-believes-all-things-part-1/
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