In his sermon on verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 13, which I recommend if you want to delve deeper into what it means to love God and neighbor, Jonathan Edwards discusses the Apostle Paul’s words, “Charity suffereth long and is kind.” Or, in more modern language, “Love is patient and kind.” Edwards explains that being kind has to do with “the good to be done to others” while suffering long has to do with “the ill received from others.”
What a Christian Spirit Does
If you have read much of Edwards, you will know that he is quite thorough with his explanations. This sermon is no different. With great care, from this 1 Corinthians verse, he carefully develops the doctrine that …
A Christian spirit disposes persons meekly to bear ill that is received from others, and cheerfully and freely to do good to others.
Edwards develops the doctrine by …
- describing various common injuries that people receive from others. (It doesn’t sound like things have changed much in 250 years.)
- explaining what it means to meekly bear an injury and what it means to suffer long.
- demonstrating how love (the sum of the Christian spirit) disposes Christians to meekly bear injuries received.
I was very intrigued, or should I say convicted by Edward’s profile of the Christian who “meekly bears injuries” (Premise 2 above) which he outlined in four points. A quote for each point is included to give you the flavor of Edward’s thoughts.
- Injuries should be endured without doing anything to revenge them: See the graphic below for more on this point. “When persons are going about to revenge an injury, then they no longer bear it.”
- Injuries should be endured with the continuation of love in the heart and without emotions or passions that tend to interrupt and destroy love.“Injuries … should be borne not only without manifesting an ill spirit outwardly in words or actions, but also without an ill spirit in the heart.”
- Injuries should be endured without losing quietness and confidence of mind. When injuries that “are suffered disturb the calm of the mind and put it into a rustle and tumult, then it [the mind] ceases to bear those injuries.”
- Injuries should be endured for the sake of peace. “… without it [vindication and redress] there may be hope of gaining our neighbor who unjustly uses us.”
Edwards, Jonathan, Strobel, K., ed., Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pp. 97-98.
See Graphic Humility for an illustration of humility that comes from Edward’s sermon, A Christian Spirit is a Humble Spirit, also from Charity and Its Fruits.
Regarding Point 4, Edwards explains that in some situations, self-defense or vindication, even if it means harming the one who injures us, is reasonable but emphasizes continuance in a spirit of love throughout this process.