About Sandra Bivens Smith

Christian Writer. Speaker. Small Group Leader/Teacher

Winning Through Non-Retaliation

“Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love does not retaliate.

We usually think of patience as the ability to wait or endure without complaint—whether it’s with people or circumstances. But the Greek word translated “patience” in 1 Corinthians 13:4 refers specifically to patience with people. It literally means “to be long tempered,” and speaks of one who could easily retaliate when wronged but chooses not to.

That kind of patience is a spiritual virtue reflective of God Himself (cf. Gal 5:22). It can’t be duplicated on a purely human level. But for Christians, it’s to be a way of life. Paul said, “I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2).

God Himself is the supreme example of patience. Peter said, “[He] is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who reject His grace are despising “the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience” (Rom. 2:4).

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, retaliating for a personal insult or injury was considered a virtue. Non- retaliation was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Our society is much the same. Our heroes tend to be those who fight back with physical strength or litigation. But that isn’t God’s perspective, nor was it Christ’s in praying for His killers, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

As you consider your own patience, remember that retaliation isn’t always blatant and forceful. It’s often subtle—like withholding affection from your spouse when he or she has wronged you, or withdrawing from a friend who has hurt you. But godly love never retaliates. It cares more for the feelings of others than for its own.
Remember the Lord’s patience toward you, and allow His Spirit to produce similar patience in you.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you are harboring resentment toward someone who has wronged you, confess it to the Lord and do everything you can to reconcile with that person.

For Further Study
Read Genesis 50:15-21.
• What fear did Joseph’s brothers have?
• How did Joseph react to their plea for forgiveness?
• How did God use the brothers’ sin to accomplish His own purposes?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187


Love in Action

“Love is patient . . . kind . . . not jealous . . . does not brag . . . is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly . . . does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is difficult to define, but it can be described by the behavior it produces.

Paul painted a portrait of the kind of love Jesus wants to produce in every believer. It is, in fact, a portrait of Christ Himself, who is love’s highest expression. Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

Set against the backdrop of the Corinthians’ self- promoting behavior, Paul’s words are a strong rebuke. He says in effect, “Love is patient, but you are impatient. Love is kind, but you are unkind toward those who disagree with you. Love is not jealous, but you envy those with certain spiritual gifts. Love does not brag, but you are proud of your theology. Love is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly, but often you are rude and ill-mannered toward one another.

“Love does not seek its own, but you are self-centered. Love is not provoked, but you quarrel among yourselves. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, but you hold grudges against each other. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but you delight in one another’s failures. Love rejoices with the truth, but you distort and disobey God’s Word.

“Love bears all things, but you are defensive and resentful. Love is eager to believe the best about someone, but you are quick to assume the worst. Love never gives up and can tolerate incredible opposition, but you are weak and intolerant.”

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see the deficiencies in their love in light of the truth and make the needed corrections. You and I must do the same. So as we explore each of love’s characteristics, ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart so others will clearly see Paul’s portrait of love on display in you.

Suggestions for Prayer
Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting “Jesus” for “love.” Then praise Him for all His excellencies.

For Further Study
What does 1 John 3:13-18 teach about love?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187