[Pope##s Article of 5 July, 2009] (461) by Dr. Wedad Abbas
Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth(1 Cor 13)
Who loves someone will not get angry from him or be provoked or treat him with violence, but with gentleness, love, and kindness.+
It is good that St. Paul the Apostle described love as “not provoked” after saying that it does not seek its own, because only the person who seeks to receive honor and dignity or special treatment or obedience and submission from the others may be provoked.
Getting provoked is against the other characteristics of love.+
Since love suffers long and is kind, it cannot be provoked. And since love does not parade itself and is not puffed up, it cannot be provoked. And since it does not behave rudely, it cannot be provoked. Likewise, it cannot be provoked since it hopes everything and endures everything.
All the characteristics of love are in conformity.+
Man by nature may be provoked against an enemy, an opponent or an adversary, but with respect to a beloved one likes to forgive and disregard his faults, as the proverb goes that a person can swallow a stone for the beloved. With the same meaning a poet once said that a pleased eye can disregard all defects, but a displeased eye can always find fault with the others.
The best model of love that is not provoked is God, blessed be His name.+
God is the lover of mankind as evident from the Scriptures: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy … He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities … As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103: 8, 10, 12) And in the Book of Joel we read, “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” (Joe 2: 13) Jonah the Prophet likewise described Him as, “… slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness.” (Jon 4: 2)
God did not get provoked against His beloved who spoke to Him in a way that seemed improper! +
He was not provoked against His beloved Abraham when Abraham said to Him, “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked … far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18: 25)
Nor did He get provoked against His beloved Job when Job said to Him, “Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?” (Job 10: 2- 3) “Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort.” (Job 10: 20) “What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, so that I am a burden to myself?” (Job 7: 20)
He was not provoked against His beloved Moses when Moses said to Him, “Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm …” (Ex 32: 12) God rather responded to his request and did not destroy the people because of their worshiping the golden calf.
God did not get provoked against His beloved who fell in serious faults.+
He was not provoked against Peter His disciple who denied Him thrice, but spoke to him gently after the resurrection, cheering him up and saying, “Feed My lambs … Tend My sheep.” (Jn 21: 15- 17) Nor was He provoked against Thomas His disciple when he said to Him, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” On the contrary He appeared to him and responded to his desire and said to him gently, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”(Jn 20: 25)
The Lord was not provoked against the disciples before the crucifixion for not being able to watch with Him in such hard hours, but He rather found them an excuse, saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” “Are you still sleeping and resting?” (Mt 26: 41, 45)
Such were some examples of the love that is not provoked, of which the Lord was a model. There are even other examples from the lives of the saints. +
Take for instance Moses the Prophet who was not provoked against Aaron and Miriam when they spoke against him because of the Ethiopian woman he had married, because he was, as the Scripture describes him, “was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” (Num 12: 3) He rather interceded for Miriam when the Lord punished her for the same reason; he said to the Lord, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” (Num 12: 13) It is the love that not only is not provoked but also intercedes!
Another example is David the Prophet in dealing with Absalom.+
Although Absalom betrayed his father David and did evil against him, leading an army to take his kingdom, David did not get provoked against him, but said to the men of his own army, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” (2 Sam 18: 5) And when they came to announce to him victory his only concern was to ask about his son: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” And when David knew of his death he wept and mourned, and that day was turned into mourning for all the people (2 Sam 18: 29, 32; 19: 1, 2).
Another example is our father Isaac who did not get provoked against his son Jacob who deceived him saying, “I am Esau your firstborn.” (Gen 27: 19) But when he discovered the deceit he said, “Indeed he shall be blessed.” (Gen 27: 33)
This reminds us of the love of the mother to her suckling.+
A suckling causes much trouble to the mother, depriving her of sleep and rest, but she does not get provoked against him. God has implanted such type of love in her heart towards her child that she may be able to take care of him and breed him.
One does not get provoked against one##s beloved so as not to lose the beloved##s love.+
In his love a person does not like to hurt the feelings of the beloved in any way, but takes his behavior in good faith, because love thinks no evil. Even in case of apparent faults love sees no evil intention behind them, but may ascribe them to ignorance or misunderstanding or good will! Love requires that one lives in an atmosphere of trust without doubting the others## intentions in spite of their strange behavior sometimes.
The Lord Christ did not lose trust in the disciples## love in spite of their faults.+
They slept in Gethsemane while He was struggling, fled at the time of His arrest, hid in the upper room in fear of the Jews, suspected His resurrection and did not believe Mary Magdalene nor the disciples from Emmaus (Mk 16: 9- 12). And when the women spoke about the resurrection “Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” (Lk 24: 11) In spite of all that, the Lord##s love for them continued without any mistrust!
It is the same for us in our relationship with the Lord. +
Whatever hardships, trials, and sorrows may surround us we never doubt God##s love for us or think that He has forsaken us. Rather, we say in confidence “All things work together for good to those who love God.” (Rom 8: 28) And we put before us the words of St. James the Apostle, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (Jas 1: 2)
The same applies to our relationship with our natural and spiritual fathers.+
We never think evil of any of them or of any behavior on their part however strange it may be. We rather say that there may be a certain purpose behind that which we cannot comprehend now. We do the same towards our brothers and companions in the ministry, because love thinks no evil.
In this way peace may prevail within families and communities.+
Thinking evil is against love and trust, and furthermore it gives room to doubt and fear, which in turn disrupts relations and hinders cooperation and may be a cause of injustice to the others who may be innocent. On the contrary refraining from thinking evil is a characteristic of love and gives a feeling of safety and confidence.
Another characteristic of love appears in not rejoicing in iniquity, but rejoicing in truth. +
Only an enemy gloats against his enemy and rejoices at whatever oppression befalls him, whereas a loving person treats even the enemy in love according to the Lord##s commandment, “Love your enemies,” (Mt 5: 44) putting before his eyes the words of the Scripture, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Prov. 24: 17)
Jacob did not rejoice when Simeon and Levi avenged for their sister from Shechem##s house who had defiled their sister, but said to them, “You have troubled me.” (Gen 34: 30) Nor did David the Prophet rejoice when they announced to him the death of Absalom, but he wept (2 Sam 18). Gloating is an evil thing any way.
Love does not rejoice at oppression. If your enemy is subject to oppression, do not rejoice, because the Lord may see it and gets offended. But if you can save your enemy, it will be a noble attitude and love on our part. Remember that when the Good Samaritan saw a Jew, who is an enemy to the Samaritans, had fallen among thieves who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead, he did not rejoice at that, but in love healed him and saved him (Lk 10: 32)
Love rejoices in truth because it conforms to God##s will. It feels glad to see every one receiving what he deserves and not be subject to oppression, even if that person is an enemy. A loving person usually defends the oppressed eve though they were his opponents or adversaries.
This commandment may apply to our love for God: if we love God, we will not rejoice in iniquity but rejoice in truth, because iniquity is enmity to God and truth is God, for He says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8: 32) So, in our love for God, we should hold to truth. On the contrary, whoever defends deception or falsehood, even under the pretext of compassion, is far from truth, and accordingly far from God.
Let us stop here and meet next week – God willing.