Love is Trusting

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7

There is a difference between trust and gullibility; fools are gullible, lovers are trusting.

Love is trusting. “Love is not jealous. Love believes all things, hopes all things.” Or to translate these verses differently: “Love . . . does not envy . . . it . . . always trusts, always hopes.” Once again the apostle Paul gives us both a negative and a positive statement about the way love behaves. Let’s think about the negative first.

Love’s Proper Jealousy

“Love does not envy,” we are told; “Love is not jealous.” On the surface of it, this does not seem to be true at all. I think everyone would agree that love often is jealous, sometimes very jealous. And there is a sense in which it ought to be, for there is a good kind of jealousy. The word Paul uses here for “envy” or “jealousy” also can mean simply “zeal,” and the right kind of zeal is something every lover should have. We ought to have a passionate desire for the faithfulness and well-being of those whom we love.

This is what the Bible means when it tells us that God is jealous. “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God,” God says in one of the ten commandments. God has a zeal for his own honor and glory. He is eager, passionately eager, for our loyalty. He has an unconditional expectation that we worship only him and remain completely faithful to him always. God does not want our love to be divided among other gods. For one thing, all other gods are idols that do not deserve our worship, but beyond that, God refuses to allow his glory to be shared with anyone or anything else. All the glory in creation must be given to him. Only he is to be worshiped, honored and adored. All love must be given to God first; anything else comes in a distant second. God’s name must be at the top of every person’s list of what is most important in his or her life.

I suppose this could sound like a monstrous kind of vanity, as if God were the biggest egotist in the universe. In anyone else, it would be – but not in God, precisely because he is God. By definition he deserves it all: all the praise, all the glory are his. God is the ultimate good. He is the best and most of everything that is praiseworthy in all existence. If anyone or anything other than God received any glory, it would be terribly wrong, and it would be just as wrong for God to want that as it would be for any of us to do it.

What is more, God knows that his jealousy for us, his passionate desire that we love him most and worship him only, is not just a desire for what is right; it is also a desire for the very thing that is best for us. Because he made us, he knows that worshiping him is the only thing that can make us truly happy. In the end, putting anything else before God in our lives will only hurt and disappoint us. God’s jealousy is, in the deepest sense, an expression of his love.

So there is a right kind of jealousy for lovers. It is the zealous desire to have those they love be faithful to all their rightful obligations, to do what they ought to do, and so experience genuine happiness. Lovers are intolerant of any attachment in their beloved’s life to that which is less than right, true, or good – precisely because they do genuinely love.

How Love Is Not Jealous

But what about the wrong kind of envy? In what ways is love not jealous? Jealousy in the bad sense can be defined as the desire to dominate, control and possess another person exclusively, to have someone’s whole life all to yourself. There is a story in the Old Testament about how King Saul became jealous of his young captain David when he heard the crowd singing one day, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” What rankled the king was not merely that David was more highly praised for his successes in battle than Saul himself; it was that he was praised at all. Saul wanted the praises of the people all to himself.

Jealousy operates on many levels in human relationships, not just between couples in love. Have you ever heard children arguing about who is whose best friend? It is not enough just to have a friend. They want to have friends exclusively, all to themselves. If I am jealous, I become upset at the thought that a friend might share something with another friend instead of with me, so that there is a part of his life into which I do not enter.

Take an extreme example. Here is a husband who says that he loves his wife passionately. He worships her, he claims. He will do anything for her, give her anything she wants, but his so-called love is dominated by a possessive jealousy. He wants her whole existence to revolve around only him. He insists she have no outside interests of which he is not a part, no other close friends besides himself, no job or career outside his home. He must dominate everything. He cannot stand to share her in any way with anyone or anything else. That is not love. That is an obsession to control.

Genuine love – agape – is not jealous because it does not desire to possess or control others. It only wants to serve them. It only wants what is truly best for them. Consider a second example. Here is a husband who loves his wife, not just with the attraction of natural love, but with agape. He does have a passionate attachment to her. He is jealous in the sense that he has a deep zeal that she remain faithful to him, as he to her. But beyond that he has no jealousy of sharing her life with other people. He does not insist on being everything to his wife because he knows he cannot be. He does not try to control her whole life; rather, he longs to see her grow, both as a person and as a follower of Jesus Christ. He knows that God, not he, must come first in her life, and that his wife will need other people and other interests besides him if she is to become the servant the Lord intends her to be. Love is not jealous because love always wants what is best for its beloved.

Neither is love envious. Envy is the resentment we feel toward those who have things we do not have. If pride causes us to look down with scorn on those we think are beneath us, envy is what makes us look up with hatred at those who are above us. One evening not long before his death, as Jesus was having dinner in the home of a friend, a woman named Mary came in, broke open a box of precious perfume and poured it over him. It was an extravagant gesture of love, but Judas, the disciple who would betray Jesus, was greatly annoyed by it. “Why didn’t she sell this perfume and give the money to the poor?” he grumbled – not because he cared so much for the poor, but because he was a thief who stole from the contributions made to Jesus. Judas was upset because he saw a good chance for embezzlement being wasted, being literally poured away.

But I think what really rankled Judas was his envy of Mary’s sheer goodness, of her uninhibited love for Jesus. Envy is cold, calculating, disapproving. Love is generous, free, spontaneous, unreserved. Love does not quibble about costs. It simply gives. Love does not stop to calculate whether it will receive a high enough return on its investment. It spends itself without thinking about a payback.

The Risks of Love

So love is neither jealous nor envious. On the contrary, love is trusting. Love is generous and free, sometimes even a little reckless. Love seeks and wants the best for others, and celebrates when they experience it. Love does not begrudge anyone her happiness or pleasure, but rejoices in what is good. It enables us to delight in the gifts and accomplishments and blessings of others, even if we don’t share them ourselves.

But loving also has its risks. What if the person I help takes advantage of me? What if the one to whom I give freedom for growth grows away from me and loses interest in me? What if my beloved hurts me? Even betrays me? It is a very real possibility. Some of the saddest letters I get are from people who have been betrayed by those they loved. God knows we not only need to love and be loved by him; we also need to love and be loved by other people. To try to do that, though, is to open ourselves to the cruelest kinds of hurt and disappointment.

But love risks the disappointment. Despite the hurts of the past, love keeps on trusting for the future, and so it reaches out in the present. “Love believes all things, love hopes all things,” sings our song. This does not mean that love believes literally everything, including all the nonsense, the deceitfulness, the lies that people tell. Love is not gullible. Fools are gullible; Christians are not supposed to be. “Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves,” said Jesus. “Be as innocent as babies with respect to evil,” added the apostle Paul, “but be grown-up in your thinking.”

We are supposed to be hardheaded, shrewd realists, especially when it comes to the promises people make. As biblical Christians we have no illusions about human nature or human goodness and honesty. No, when Paul tells us that love believes all things, I think he means that love believes all things are possible because repentance is always possible. Love always has hope that the ending will be a happy one.

How can this be, given the world in which we live? Jesus’ disciples once asked him that very question. His answer: “With God nothing is impossible.” So love always goes on believing and always goes on hoping, even when it seems like it has no future. Love has great expectations. We believe and we hope because we trust in Jesus Christ.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a complex and difficult man; brilliant, temperamental, cruel, overbearing, disappointed in love, unhappy in life. His greatest composition was his ninth symphony, a monumental work for orchestra and choir that is one of the world’s greatest artistic masterpieces. What makes it even more amazing is that by the time he wrote the piece, Beethoven was completely deaf. He never heard a note of it, except in his own mind. The ultimate frustration in this man’s frustrated life was to lose his hearing, the one sense he depended on to exercise his genius.

The final movement of the Ninth Symphony begins with a clash of discordant sounds symbolizing chaos, perhaps the chaos in his own mind, but eventually the choir breaks into a magnificent hymn of joy. “Brothers,” they sing, “beyond the starry heavens a loving Father must dwell.” I think in its own way this song is Beethoven’s confession of faith and of hope. Despite the hurts we experience, despite appearances to the contrary, there is a God of love who rules the world, and because of him we know that our love will not be ultimately disappointed.

But God does more than just dwell beyond the starry heavens. He is here with us. The Bible says that God loved us so much he gave his only Son to become one of us, to die for us, to rise again, and to bestow his Spirit on everyone who believes in him. Put your faith in Jesus Christ, live your life in him and for him, and you will know the love that can believe all things and hope all things. And that cannot, in the end, be disappointed.