Love Thinks No Evil

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 delineates several critical attributes that reveal the force and nature of love. Among these is the sentiment that love thinks no evil. What does scripture mean by this statement? What is the practical application of this principle with respect to the love between a husband and wife?

The expression in verse five of the King James Version of the Bible informs us that love “thinketh no evil”. The Greek term for “thinketh” in this phrase can be defined in two different, albeit related, ways. The term can be defined in the sense of reasoning, concluding, supposing, or thinking on a matter. But, it is also used in a more metaphoric way referring to the act of counting up, inventorying, estimating, or taking account of something. The beauty of this phrase is that it has a dual meaning and application – two different ways of viewing it that are both true and both intended to be conveyed.

In the immediate sense, the phrase “love thinks no evil” teaches us that those who possess and characterize true love are not disposed to find evil where no evil seems to be. In other words, those who truly grasp biblical love do not suppose that good, or even neutral, actions have bad motives. They do not reason a negative opinion upon mere appearances or infer impure intent from the actions or words of others.

This is a critical concept that has practical application to the marriage. One of the worst enemies of strong relationships – and of love itself – is negative perceptions or interpretations. This is an extremely common phenomenon in which spouses identify and interpret their partner’s actions, behavior, conduct, words, motives, intentions, and so forth in a negative way – or at least more negatively than is actually the case. In other words people believe they know the thoughts and emotions behind their mate’s conduct and become convinced that it is negative in nature. They see wrong in their partner even when it is not there. [See related article.]

If you truly love your spouse in the biblical sense you will fight against the human inclination to assume impure motives of your spouse intended to irritate or exasperate. These negative perceptions are dangerous because they are incorrect more often than not. They are not based on fact or reality. Or, at the very least they distort reality making it appear worse than it is.

Love will cause you to consider the best possible construction regarding the motives and conduct of your partner. Love always gives others the benefit of the doubt. It does not jump to conclusions. It is not apt to be jealous or suspicious without clear evidence of wrongdoing.

As noted above, there is another equally valid and correct meaning to the biblical concept that “love thinks no evil.” Various translations render this phrase to show that love “takes no account of wrong done to it”, “doesn’t keep track of wrongs”, and so forth. The original Greek conveys the thought of counting up or taking into account of as in a ledger with a view of settling an account.

This concept brings to mind a scenario in which a one keeps careful track of the wrongs done to him/her with the intention of later benefiting in some way. This is done to gain an advantage, mediate revenge, justify charges of guilt and shame, and so forth. Contemporary marriage experts refer to this practice as “scorekeeping”. It is a problematic and dangerous phenomenon that destroys affection in relationships.

In contrast to scorekeeping, love does not impute evil to the account of those who have committed wrongdoing against it. On the contrary, love fully and freely excuses injury done to it – and remembers it no more. If we truly characterize biblical love, we are never to be resentful or vengeful. We must forgive and refuse to look back.

One translation of this verse declares that love “pays no attention to a suffered wrong”. Yet another says that love “remembers no evil”. This is a critical notion that all married couples should heed.

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