Love Always Protects (1 Corinthians 13:7)
by Ted Schroder
“Love always protects.” The verb means to cover, to pass over in silence, to keep confidential. It is used to describe a roof. When we want to stop discussion of something we may say that we want to ‘put a lid on it.’ Love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12) “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Love finds a way to shelter the wrongdoer from exposure and condemnation. This is how God has treated us. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1)
The word for ‘making atonement’ in the Hebrew: kaphar, means ‘to cover.’ The atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was the fulfillment of the purpose of the Day of Atonement celebrated each year in the Temple, when the sins of the people were covered by the blood of the offering in the Holy of Holies. Jesus was both the High Priest and the Sacrifice to take away our sins by covering them, ‘making atonement’, and protecting us from condemnation. What God in Christ has done for us is meant to instruct us to do for others.
This, therefore, is how we should treat one another. By extending to others our protection, our generosity, our forgiveness, we can enjoy it ourselves. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Loving one another in this way shows that we have the root of the matter in us – we have assimilated the nature of grace. We love one another deeply by not exposing the frailties of others. We are willing to make allowances, to overlook minor infractions. We are reluctant to drag the faults of others into the light of day. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1,2)
Nowhere is this more illustrated than in the incident of the woman taken in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus bowed down and wrote with his finger on the ground. He who knew everything, knew also what the scribes and the Pharisees knew, before they told him. They soon discovered her guilt, which was easy since her sin was open. They also discovered a new sin, of which they were guilty, by trying to ensnare Jesus with their question. But Jesus ignored them and wrote with his finger on the ground. Why did he avert his gaze? Why did he write with his finger on the ground? Did he sit there like a judge who listens attentively to the story of the accusers, who, listening, bows down and jots down the principal points so that he may not forget them, and judge strictly? Was the woman’s guilt the only thing which was noted by the Lord? Or did he write with his finger in the dust in order to erase it and forget it? There stood the sinner, surrounded by those even more guilty, who loudly accused her, but love
bowed down and did not hear the accusation, which passed over his head into the air. He wrote with his finger in order to blot out what he knew: sin discovers a multitude of sins, but love covers a multitude of sins. People who look for sin are sure to find it. Love does not look for sin. Jesus tells them to look into their own hearts: “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Was he writing their sins on the ground and then erasing them? When they have all left leaving only the woman standing there with Jesus he asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Her sin was covered. He would make atonement for it. But she had to change her behavior.
Love always protects by silence, by not gossiping about our neighbor’s faults, for in the retelling of them the truth is often embroidered until they bear little resemblance to reality. Love always protects through mitigating explanations. Every event, every word, every act, everything, can be explained in numerous ways. The lover will choose the most mitigating explanation. We are not called to be judges or detectives seeking to uncover guilt. How many lives have been ruined by drawing the wrong conclusions about events, and making the wrong interpretation of an action. We don’t know all the circumstances or the motives involved in the lives of others. Love seeks a favorable interpretation to protect the innocent. Love protects by forgiveness. God loves us by blotting out our sin. It is forgiven and forgotten. “You have put all my sins behind your back.” (Isaiah 38:11) The lover forgives, forgets, blots out sin, by turning to the one he forgives, and in so doing he cannot see what lies behind his back. He
turns his back on the sin and goes forward leaving it behind him.
It is important that we do not press this teaching to the point of covering up a heinous crime. I am sure that St. Paul here is not advocating, that out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, perpetrators of violence should be protected. I can well remember a knock on the door one night, when I was living in Orange Park, and finding my neighbor, Mrs C., in tears because her grown daughter had threatened to bring charges against her father for sexual abuse. While she had been only too well aware of his abusive behavior over the years, she had hidden it, denied it, and put her daughters and neighborhood children (including our own), at risk. Love does not protect criminal behavior at the expense of the innocent and vulnerable. Love does not enable or excuse destructive and irresponsible behavior. Love delights in the truth, it does not encourage lies and deceit by covering it up. Organizations should not protect their employees at the expense of the public, whether it is embezzlement at the management level, or
dishonesty at any level. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has discovered how high a price it has had to pay for protecting priestly perpetrators of sexual abuse by covering up their crimes over the years. The abuse of power is never to be protected.
"The Lives of Others" won the Oscar this year for the best Foreign Language Film. It depicts the work of the Stasi (State Security) in East Germany under the communist regime in 1984. Captain Weisler is assigned to conduct surveillance of a celebrated writer and actress couple, Georg Dreyman and Christa-Maria Sieland. Their apartment is bugged and Weisler listens in on their every word from the attic. As he does so, he discovers that the reason for the surveillance is to uncover evidence against Dreyman so that he might be denounced and removed, allowing a Minister in the communist government to seduce Christa-Maria. Weisler is drawn into the stimulating, intellectual world of this artistic couple, and develops a sympathy for them. When Dreyman writes a controversial article criticizing the government, which is published under a pseudonym in West Germany, Weisler covers up evidence that would incriminate the author. The plot explores the abuse of power and its effects on the lives of the protagonists. Captain
Weisler pays a price for protecting Dreyman. He is demoted to the lowest job in State Security – steaming open letters in a basement office. After the Berlin wall comes down, the two Germany’s are reunited and the records of the Stasi are made available to the public, Dreyman discovers how Weisler protected him and expresses his gratitude in a unique way.
Love always protects. God throws his covering over us in the atonement of Jesus on the Cross. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1,2)
Ted Schroder’s new book, SURVIVING HURRICANES: DELIVER US FROM EVIL, is now available from
www.Amazon.com or Amelia Island Publishing,
(email@example.com) 904-277-4414, for $24.95 (free shipping). It deals with the problem of evil and suffering from the point of view of the Armor of God, and the Lord’s Prayer, and provides prayers and questions for reflection and discussion.
March 25, 2007
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