“Love doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (ESV) or “Love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (NASB) – 1 Cor. 13:6
This is a straightforward verse with very little ambiguity. This verse is unique from what we have seen because it contains a negative and positive in the same verse. We have seen what love is, what it isn’t, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Those groupings have been contained together, but this one is unique because of containing the two opposites in one verse.
This verse comes back to love as an action. First, love doesn’t do something. What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. The term “rejoice” is from the same root word as the term charis. That is the term used for grace. The term for “rejoice” is chario and means “to be favorably disposed or leaning towards.” Strong’s Concordance. It can be used to describe an occasion when one is joyful because of having received grace from God.
The term “unrighteousness” has a prefix and a root word. The prefix is the letter a, and it means not. The root is dikia meaning justice. Hence the word adikia means “not just, not right, without justice, etc.”
These two words, rejoice and unrighteousness, help develop the thought of Paul. Love doesn’t delight in, isn’t inclined to, favorably disposed, or leaning toward anything that is opposed to what is just and righteous. Whatever is wrong, unjust, untrue, unrighteous, etc. is opposed to true love.
How do we know what is just or right you may wonder? Isn’t there an endless number of opinions and views? Well among humans there may be, but God is the only true, infallible, and unchanging standard of measurement for what is right, just, and true. God has revealed His preceptive will in His word, and anything not measuring up or lining with it isn’t just and righteous. God’s preceptive will refers to that revealed will of God where He has made not His precepts, laws, commands, etc.
God alone, in His perfect character and essence, is just, true, righteous, and good. His word is in perfect harmony with His nature, and anything not keeping to His nature and His word is unrighteous. It should not be an object of rejoicing in for humans created in His image. God is love, and love must be in line with God’s nature.
After stating what love doesn’t rejoice in, he immediately states that it does rejoice in the truth. Truth literally could be stated as that which corresponds to reality. That, which by its very nature is in line with reality, is true. This concept, as unrighteousness, has God as its standard. Because God is holy and true, He alone affirms what is true and what is untrue. God’s word is truth. (John 17:17)
This is another reason why renewing the mind is vital. If one is to truly love, he or she must do so according to the revealed word of God. Only by knowing what is righteous and true can one rejoice in it. To proceed in ignorance may result in rejoicing in the unjust, unrighteous, and untrue. To do this would be opposed to God and His word, and this would be sinful.
Being mindful of the context, this is another reason Paul needed to instruct the Corinthians on the issue of spiritual gifts. These professing Christians may have been rejoicing in what was actually opposed to God’s desires. Such rejoicing could not be identified as true love, but it would be deemed self-love more appropriately. If it was self-love based on what is not true, just, or righteous, it would be sin.
Do you really know the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness, justice and injustice, or true and untrue? The difference isn’t found in what society deems as right, just, or appropriate. This is what God reveals in His word. Only by this knowledge can one truly love.