1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,…
This is not to say that love is blind to iniquity or slow, on occasion, to reprove it. The most scathing denunciation that ever was heard, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell!" fell from the lips of Incarnate Love. But love has nothing in common with a censorious spirit. Love puts the best construction on everything it sees. It thinketh no evil. Let us note some of the reasons why we should, as far as possible, speak well of our fellow-men.
I. IT IS CHRIST LIKE. How sympathetic and gracious and helpful He ever was! He had a kind word for the magdalen, a pitying glance for the dying thief.
II. CONSIDER OUR IGNORANCE. Who are we that we should assume to know what passes in a human breast? How little we understand the conditions, the environment, the sore temptations, of those who fall into sin!
1. Of justice we know little or nothing. Let us leave that to an omniscient God. Our function is with mercy. That falls measurably within our sphere of knowledge, and we are safe to administer it.
III. WE WORK INCALCULABLE INJURY BY OUR UNCHARITABLE TREATMENT OF OTHERS. There are people who would not prick their neighbours with a bodkin, yet do not hesitate, as Swift says, to —
"Convey a libel with a frown,
And wink a reputation down."They would not steal a farthing, but rob their neighbours without scruple of that which is better than life. It is related that when the martyr Taylor was dying at the stake one of the bystanders cast a flaming torch which struck his eyes and blinded them "and brake his face that the blood ran down his visage." This was base, cowardly, brutal beyond words. But it was not more base, more brutal, or more cowardly than to injure a man in his reputation, to put him to an open shame by blackening his honour.
IV. WE LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES. We are none of us any better than the law requires, none of us any better than we ought to be. We have all sinned and come short of the Divine glory; and, strange to tell, the faults which we are most prone to criticise in others are those which are most deeply seated in ourselves. Tell me the general drift of a man's aspersions and I will show you his darling sin. It would be prudent in us all to take advantage of that provision which in courts of justice excuses a witness from testifying against a culprit when to do so would incriminate himself. It takes a rogue to catch a rogue. All captious criticism is in the nature of State's evidence.
V. WE ARE ON OUR WAY TO JUDGMENT. And here we are making the rule which will apply to ourselves at that great day. "Judge not," said the Master, "that ye be not judged. For with what judgment," etc. The Moslems say that two spirits are set to guard the actions of every man. At night they fly up to heaven and report to the recording angel. The one says, "He bath wrought this good, O angel! Write it ten times!" The other says, "He hath wrought this evil; but forbear, O angel, yet seven hours, in order that he may repent!" It is true that God delighteth in mercy. But it we want it we must here accord it.
VI. IN DEALING UNGRACIOUSLY WITH OTHERS WE LOSE THE BLESSED OPPORTUNITY OF KINDNESS. There is no telling "what good may he done by a word of sympathy and helpfulness, one of those "words in due season" which are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. In the prison at New Bedford there is a man serving out a life sentence who some years ago had a strange experience. He had previously been regarded as one of the most desperate and dangerous inmates. He had planned outbreaks and mutinies, and been repeatedly punished in vain. His heart was full of bitterness. But one day in June a party of strangers came to visit the institution, an old man with several ladies and one little girl. It happened that this prisoner had just been assigned for some misdemeanour to the menial task of scrubbing the corridor. The warden, leading the visitors about, saw him, sulky and morose, at the top of the stairway. "Jim," he called, "come and carry this little girl up." The convict scowled and hesitated. The little girl at the foot of the stairway held out her arms and said, "If you will, I'll kiss you." He looked at her seriously a moment, then slowly came down, and lifting her upon his shoulders as tenderly as any father could have done, carried her to the upper corridor. She raised her face. He gravely stooped and kissed it, then returned to his task. And they say at the New Bedford jail that he has never been the same man since that day. The kindness of that child in some way transformed his life.
(D. J. Burrell, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,