When I think about what it means to “think biblically,” I usually think, “How do I look at situations with the Bible as my guide?” And that’s fine! Most of the content on this website takes that approach: “How do we think biblically about entertainment? About dating? About current events?”
But sometimes we also have to think biblically about something much more basic, like the definition of words. This might seem too simple, but you would be surprised by how many contentions spring from people not even agreeing on how words are defined.
“Come on, Mr. Sandor,” you might think, “we know what dictionaries are. They give the same words and definitions to all of us.” Well, you have a point—to a degree. While dictionaries give us the opportunity to uniformly define words, it’s still not uncommon for people to just ignore dictionaries and use whatever definitions they have in their heads.
But there’s a bigger problem: Dictionaries don’t use the Bible to define words. The Bible provides definitions for sin (1 John 3:4), righteousness, (Psalm 119:172), faith (Hebrews 11:1, 6), and a host of other words—and these definitions are different from what you’ll find when you google a word (or dig out a hardcopy dictionary).
For this post, let’s briefly consider the word love. How should we define that? Well, if you’re still reading, you’re about to get some answers.
Needless to say, there are a ton of definitions. Google says love (when used as a verb) is “to feel deep affection” for someone or “to like or enjoy [something] very much.” Those definitions certainly work in many situations and generally describe how the world uses the word love, especially when describing everything from a boyfriend to a kitten, to a football game, to a haircut.
While these definitions are not what we’d find in the Bible, they’re at least helpful when interacting with the world at large. We usually use them, too, in a carefree way. At various times in my life, I’ve probably said that I love the Chicago Cubs, Chick-fil-A, and Kwik Trip. It’s not biblical, but it’s also not meant to be—just me expressing my affection for something.
The dangerous definitions of love tend to come from individuals, because love can also be used (or manipulated) as a tool of selfishness. This is all too common in dating situations in the world, where the word love can be thrown about when usually the word lust would better describe the relevant feelings. This lustful, selfish emotion is rebranded as love by these individuals—who might have even lied to themselves about their true intentions.
Another anti-biblical redefinition of love has come from groups that seek to make sin acceptable. Individuals might tell you that you don’t love them because you are unwilling to celebrate or accept their sinful lifestyles. Of course, all people make mistakes, and repentance is a big topic for another time—but all too often, people want to demand that you “love unconditionally,” and will guilt trip others by saying something like, “If you loved me, you’d accept me for who I am.”
But what does the Bible say? 1 Corinthians 13 provides multiple definitions of love—too many to cover in this post, in fact. Mr. Weston has an entire sermon on just the aspect of love that “thinks no evil” (v. 5), so, today, let’s consider the next definition of love: It “does not rejoice in iniquity” (v. 6).
Worldly dating has become a sea of iniquity, and those who have friends and coworkers in the world probably know all too well how much fornication and other iniquity has affected people they know and care about. This creates situations where the way we love those people—the way the Bible defines how we love those people—is by not rejoicing when they are committing iniquity.
One time, I had a coworker who happily announced that she was moving in with her boyfriend. I think she expected us all to be happy for her, and many of our fellow coworkers expressed that happiness. I tried to take the easy way out—I just went back to work and said nothing. But she noticed, and she called me on it later. 1 Corinthians 13:6 did not immediately jump into my brain, but I did calmly tell her that it was hard for me to be happy about her moving into this situation when it seemed preferable for her to marry her boyfriend. Thankfully, she wasn’t mad—she actually appreciated my honesty, and even confessed that she wished they were getting married, but her boyfriend wasn’t “ready.” I’m glad she gave me an opportunity to talk privately and explain. She saw that my disapproval wasn’t based in anger, but in concern.
Tragically, these types of situations can happen closer to home. I’ve seen situations where a young person leaves the Church, moves in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and then is shocked when we aren’t happy about it. Ironically, they often accuse the Church of being “unloving” for not celebrating their bad decisions when the exact opposite is true. When you don’t rejoice in iniquity, you are showing love—that’s one of the ways the Bible defines love.
I’ve only briefly touched on one description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, but hopefully it helps remind us that when words are thrown around, we have to make sure we’re thinking biblically as we define them. Words can be easily manipulated by corporations, politicians, and even everyday people. When the Bible gives a word a definition, let’s be sure to use it!