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1 Corinthians 13:5

“[Love] is not irritable or resentful.”

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul uses a multitude of overlapping concepts to drive home his point that love compels us to look out for the good of other people. For instance, Paul says that love does not boast and it is not arrogant (v. 4). These two ideas are virtually synonymous, and they convey the exhortation to avoid sinful self-promotion so that others can be appropriately recognized and esteemed in the church.

First Corinthians 13:5 concludes by explaining that love “is not irritable or resentful.” The defining characteristic of love’s not being irritable overlaps considerably with patience as an integral attribute of love (v. 4). After all, what produces irritability but impatience with others? Irritable people are quick to get angry and frustrated because they have not learned to adequately put up with the faults of others. When Paul says that love is not irritable, he means that love trains us to keep our anger in check and to respond appropriately to the various annoyances and frustrations that attend life in a fallen world. As Matthew Henry aptly comments, love “corrects a sharpness of temper, sweetens and softens the mind, so that it does not suddenly conceive, nor long continue, a vehement passion. Where the fire of love is kept in, the flames of wrath will not easily kindle, nor long keep burning. Charity will never be angry without a cause, and will endeavor to confine the passions within proper limits, that they may not exceed the measure that is just, either in degree or duration.”

As noted, 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not “resentful.” Other translations say here that love does not keep a record of wrongs, and that is the idea that the Apostle is teaching. Essentially, love is quick to forgive and forget, not in the sense that the wrongs we have suffered pass away completely from our minds but that we no longer hold them against those whom we have forgiven. Of course, forgiveness means not holding the sins of others against them, as that is what the Lord’s pardon of our transgressions entails (2 Cor. 5:19). Forgiving others and not holding their sins against them when they repent is the duty of every Christian, and it is the fruit of love (Matt. 18:21–22; Col. 3:12–14). Resentfulness contradicts love because we resent people only when we continue to hold their past sins against them even when they have asked for our forgiveness. Love endeavors to truly and fully forgive.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Forgiveness is not always easy, but it is not optional. Christian love ceases to hold people’s sins against them when they ask for forgiveness. Such love does not foolishly put one’s own self or others in harm’s way, but it also does not fail to reconcile where true repentance has been evident. Let us look at our hearts today and see where we might be resenting people who have asked for our pardon. Then, let us seek, by God’s help, to stop holding their sins against them.

For Further Study
  • Genesis 37:1–11; 50:15–21
  • Matthew 6:14–15
  • James 1:19–21

Not Insisting on Our Own Way

Love’s Goodness and Truth

Keep Reading The Confessing Church

From the June 2021 Issue
Jun 2021 Issue