By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Someone has offended you. They have sinned against you… again. You are at your breaking point and unsure of what to do. In the midst of this, you remember you read somewhere in the Bible that love keeps no record of wrong. You wrestle with this verse because, in your eyes, the offense was so great. How can you not keep a record of it? The last thing you want to do is let it go. If you have been in this place, or maybe you still are, you are not alone because I have been there too. Yet this truth that love keeps no record of wrong forces you to consider your attitude about forgiveness and how you deal with those who have sinned against you. I promise you this is not the easiest thing to do but the benefits of doing it make it all worth it.
Where Does the Bible Say Love Keeps No Record of Wrong?
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul defines what love is. It is probably the most complete definition of love in the Scriptures. One thing he mentions is love keeps no record of wrong.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
You may have heard or read that passage many times before. For a moment, let’s consider the kind of love Paul is talking about.
What Kind of Love Is Paul Referring To?
Like most of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians is written in an ancient form of Greek. The Greek language has several words for love. Storge is the type of love you will have in a family. Phileo is a love two close friends will have for each other. Eros is a romantic love that can be shared between a husband and wife. All of these are wonderful types of love, but not the kind of love that Paul is referring to. The word for love used here is agape. In “What Does Agape Love Really Mean in the Bible?” Alyssa Roat penned what I think is a great description of agape love, which is the kind of love Paul is referring to. Here is how she described it.
“Agape could be defined as charity. However, we often think of charity nowadays as giving away money or things, which doesn’t encompass all of what agape is about. Agape love is unconcerned with the self and concerned with the greatest good of another. Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.”
One crucial part of this description applies to having a love that keeps no record of wrong. To love someone and not keep a record of their wrongs is something you must choose to do. As followers of Christ, this is a decision we must say “yes” to. This aspect of love must become an essential part of who you are. You will discover this type of love is a necessary ingredient for any relationship you are involved in.
What Does Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs Mean for Forgiving Spouses?
What I am about to share can apply to any relationship. For a moment, I want to speak to those who are married. When you are married, your relationship with your spouse should be your closest relationship. Consequently, there are more chances for one of you to offend the other. So what role does forgiveness play in a marriage when there is an offense? The truth is forgiveness is everything. You cannot have a long-lasting, successful marriage if forgiveness is not part of it.
As we mention forgiveness, I want to clear up a common misconception—especially because it ties into love keeping no record of wrongs. Forgiveness does not mean you have forgotten the offense committed against you. True forgiveness means that even though you were offended, the sting of the offense no longer exists. Even if the memory lingers, you choose not to hold it against that person. This is what it means that love keeps no record of wrong. If you keep the records and constantly bring up the past offense, you have not truly forgiven the person and are harboring unforgiveness in your heart. Just like love is a choice and forgiveness is a choice, unforgiveness is a choice. I can promise you that if you decide to keep bringing up past offenses to your spouse, you are not laying a foundation for a healthy marriage. Since you will have to choose anyway, why not choose love over unforgiveness? You will be better off for it. Your spouse will be better off for it, and so will your marriage.
Does Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs Mean We Should Pardon Abusers?
As we consider not keeping a record of wrong, what do we do with the serial abuser? The person who continues to sin against you even after you have forgiven them? Thankfully, Peter asked Jesus a similar question.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus is not telling you that you should forgive 490 times, and then you don’t have to forgive anymore. He is saying there is no end to the amount of forgiveness you should offer. One big, huge, gigantic reason we forgive and don’t hold people’s sins against them is that this is how God deals with us. David wrote in Psalm 103:10 that he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. This is how we should treat people who have sinned against us.
However, let me address another issue connected to not keeping records of wrongs. When you forgive someone who has wronged you, it does not always lead to reconciliation. There are times when trust is broken, or some other type of harm is inflicted. In these situations, even though you can forgive and don’t keep a record of the wrong, the relationship cannot exist as it did before.
Let me give you an example. Let’s assume you are married and your spouse repeatedly commits adultery, which has violated the marriage’s trust. If the spouse shows no real desire to change, you can forgive them and not keep a record of the wrong, but the situation may not lend itself to reconciliation. I want to be careful not to make a blanket statement across the board. I do want to show how forgiveness, and even no longer holding the sin against a person, does not always repair broken relationships. Forgiveness is necessary to repair you. Sometimes though, the previous relationship may still end up a casualty.
If you’re in a position where physical harm has been done, your first step should be to separate for your safety and get help from trustworthy people to determine the next step. If you’re unsure whether your relationship has become abusive, you can learn more at “What Does the Bible Say about Abusive Relationships?”
How Do We Practice Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs?
Let’s get beyond just reading this verse, beyond understanding what it means. For this to take hold in your life, you must put it into practice. The logical question is, how do you do this? Part of the answer comes down to giving what you have received—not necessarily from other people but from what you have received from God. Look at what his word says.
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
In his great grace and mercy, God chooses to forgive and not to keep a record of your wrongs. You must do the same. Having love that keeps no record of wrong boils down to choosing to do it. But let’s be honest: this is not always easy to do. Sometimes, this is not what you want to do. For some of us, it is far easier to keep those records of wrong; over time, we can even find reasons to justify doing it. I say this because I have been guilty of this behavior, so I know the struggle. Even though it is much more difficult to forgive and not keep those records, you will discover it is far more rewarding not to hold onto them. When you hold them, you continually chain yourself to the past offense. You become a slave to the sin committed against you, which can leave you bitter, broken, and ultimately in bondage. Again I say this because I held onto an offense for many years that entrapped me, and trust me, nothing good came out of it. However, when I forgave and chose to keep the record no longer, I was healed and released from my bondage. This is why you must choose to forgive and remove the record.
So let’s get to how you do this. Let me share three things that can help you not keep a record of wrongs.
1. Begin in prayer, asking God to heal the hurt places in your heart
2. Forgive the person who wronged you from your heart out of the forgiveness and healing you have received from God
3. Do something towards the person who offended you that demonstrates you have forgiven them and are not keeping a record of wrong.
I know the third one may be the most difficult of the three, but this is the thing that truly sets you free from the past offense. The thing you do towards the offender could be a letter, a phone call, an email, a card, or even a meal. You are freeing yourself by letting go of the record.
Finally, I know these are hard places we are called to walk in as believers. Thankfully, you don’t walk in this alone. The same God who declares he will remember your sins no more is the same God who dwells in you by the power of the Holy Spirit. This means you can do this. Not because you can muster up the strength on your own but simply because the Holy Spirit can give you the ability to do what you could never do yourself. Lean into his strength and trust him to help you, and you will find an amazing ability to show this kind of love that keeps no record of wrong.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/AndreyPopov
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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