I was reminded of a story I read some time ago about the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the famous Reformer whose preaching brought truth, mercy, and joy to the city of Geneva.
That summer, hundreds of Christians from around the world gathered in Calvin’s old cathedral, St. Pierre, high on the hill overlooking Lake Geneva. They gathered to worship God and to hear again the great truths the reformation recovered for Switzerland and the world – truths like the sovereignty of God, the unique and supreme authority of Scripture, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
On the eve of Calvin 500, a rather different celebration was taking place down by the shore, where three hundred thousand revelers were dancing through the streets for Geneva's annual Lake Parade. The mood was not lighthearted and fun but raucous and rebellious. Alcohol flowed freely. Intoxication led to nudity and indecency, both gay and straight. On the morning after, there was trash everywhere – lying in the trash – prone forms of partiers too messed up to make their way home.
The contrast between the two celebrations was stark. One celebration was centered on God, and it left people better equipped to live for Christ through the sufferings of a fallen world. The other was centered on personal pleasure, and it left people empty and alone.
What will you choose to celebrate, and where will it leave you? When you see other people making the wrong choice and them reveling in it, are you happy for the chance to feel morally superior, or are you brokenhearted by sin and longing to share the gospel? When the Bible talks about these decisions, it says that what makes the difference is love, for love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:5)
Love is for everything that is godly and against everything that is ungodly. The Christian that is truly full of the love never fails to cheers and praises any and all behavior that reflects the gospel - for every instance of forgiveness, for every act of kindness, for every time the Truth is spoken, for every gentle action, for every victory in the name of Christ.
Conversely, that person refuses to delight in evil, whether in war, oppression of the poor, the compromising of the gospel for the sake of inclusion, or the fall of a brother of sister that we do like or with whom we have a disagreement.
When the Bible talks about truth, it is not talking merely about what we know, but also about what we do. Usually, we think that the opposite of truth is falsehood. Yet the Bible commonly contrasts truth to unrighteousness. This is not a “category mistake,” as a philosopher would call it, but simply a recognition that truth is something we live and not merely something we believe. Christians are called to practice the truth (1 John 1:6) and walk in the truth (3 John 3). “We cannot do anything against the truth,” Paul later wrote, “but only for the truth” (2 Cor. 13:8).
In 1 Corinthians 13:6 Paul writes, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." (NIV) The word translated here as “in” is the Greek word “epi” and is best translated as “at”. Love does not delight at evil but rejoices with the truth. If he were talking about the sinner’s celebration of the sinner’s own sin, he would not have used the word “epi”. By saying that love refuses to rejoice “at” wrongdoing, he puts the sin somewhere outside the person who is doing the rejoicing. Love refuses to celebrate someone else’s sin.