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Rising in Love Part 4: Love Keeps no Record of Wrongs

Blog by Nikayla Reize

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice about injustice, but love rejoices about the truth.

The Greek word here for “record” means to determine something via mathematical processes or calculations. It’s an accounting term, and Paul declares that love isn’t good at math. Love is not a sin accountant.

This is shocking to me. This statement challenges everything I’ve ever believed about God and the world and all my relationships. I thought God kept track of every secret deed and thought – every selfish motive and scheme. I thought God was watching and waiting to catch me. I thought God was exacting and calculating – all knowing and all present.

I always thought of God as being there at home, awake and waiting because you said you’d be home by 10pm and its now half past eleven. I don’t imagine a God who would start yelling and screaming when I come in late, and nor do I imagine this God frantically calling me, wondering where I am. I’ve just always thought there was a cruel and calculating presence waiting for me to walk in quietly, letting me believe I’d gotten away with it – only to say, after a heavy silence, a stone cold, “Do you know what time it is?” And then because I’ve been caught breaking the house rules, God just quietly gets up and goes to bed. No punishment – no conversation – just a knowing and a leaving, a condemnation. Shame.

I have often thought that when Adam and Eve were hiding in the garden after eating the forbidden fruit, God’s “Where are you?” was more of a taunting, “Come out, come out, wherever you are…I know what you did.”

So what on earth do we do with this verse in the BIBLE? Love keeps no record of wrong. The Greek word for “wrong” means something that is morally or socially reprehensible, evil, bad.

What is the point of a God who doesn’t keep track of these things? What’s the point of a religion if teenagers aren’t deeply aware that God knows exactly what they did and exactly what they deserve? How can we police people if we don’t keep track of all the times they miss the mark? I can tell you right now exactly how many times I’ve been wronged and by whom. My memory of how many times I’ve turned the other cheek, been wronged, been dismissed, is how I get through the shame-storm I’m almost always weathering. I make a lot of bad choices, but… SO DO YOU AND YOU DON’T SEE ME RUBBING YOUR FACE IN IT. Goodnight. Love you.

Psalm 103:10-14 says, He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”

God puts infinite distance between me and my criminal record. So, is Paul saying that God literally can’t remember anything I’ve done wrong before and chooses to see the best of me and cast the worst of me from Her memory? Like when someone accuses me of wrongdoing (and they’re right), is God’s response really, “I have no idea what you’re talking about…I have no record on file of that ever happening”…?

That’s scandalous. It’s impossible. This idea dismantles the entire system. This idea, should a community embody it, would inaugurate a new age. This idea would abolish the prison industrial complex. It would forgive all debt and disrupt the entire economy. Imagine making a mortgage payment and the bank calls because they don’t remember the debt and can’t understand why you’re sending them money. This idea pulls a thread that I soon discover holds the entire system together. The Holy Spirit, I’m pretty sure, is a giddy child whispering to her church, “let’s pull it – go on – pull it. I triple dog dare you.”

Love is not a sin accountant!  Love is not fair! Love doesn’t balance the books or need to discuss the bottom line! Love doesn’t sentence anyone to jail and knows nothing about paying one’s dues to society. Love releases. Love clears the record. Love loses the record.

I think about this for a moment – and I understand the freedom implied. Freedom from debt, from unspoken expectations, freedom from shame and humiliation. I think of Adam and Eve being entirely naked in the garden – completely safe, nothing to be embarrassed about. Just alive and authentically seen and seeing. An economy of belonging and abundance.

But then I suddenly remember the vulnerability that comes with being seen and I think about abuse and violence – and I understand why we’d rather move past this and continue keeping track. I think to myself, “I am allowed to have boundaries, right?” I can’t just be an open door for abuse under the guise of “forgetting” the former transgressions, right? I don’t know the difference on the best of days between having a gift to give the world and being open 24/7 for the world’s taking. God doesn’t keep a record of wrong, but is God able to protect me or help me protect myself from abuse? Read the next line.

Love doesn’t rejoice in injustice. There it is. It’s not one or the other.

God can say, “I don’t keep track, and to be honest, I have no idea how many sins you’re hiding, but make no mistake – it’s not because I’m not paying attention. I care very much about the vulnerable parts of your heart and the vulnerable people in your neighbourhood. Just because I am not keeping track of the number of catalytic converters the infamous Bowness thief steals, doesn’t mean I’m deaf to the mournful prayers of all the folks discovering their vehicle has been impaired over night while they were sleeping.”

Can God simultaneously not hold the wrongs of the thief against him while also caring deeply about the victims of his sneaky thievery? It’s too good. Love doesn’t keep track of wrongs, but nor does love celebrate injustice.

Again, I’m brought back to the critical memory behind the entire biblical narrative: the exodus. God says, “I have heard their cries – I know about their suffering.”

Oh, the wonder of being told that someone has witnessed the injustice – the abuse – the microaggressions – the secret sobs. God sees those who have been made to feel all alone in the world. An all-seeing God who keeps no account. What a paradox! Of course, God cares about justice! The exodus event took place because God cared about the suffering of the enslaved Hebrews – he appeared and commissioned Moses to speak truth to power on behalf of the victims of injustice because God is good. He didn’t do it because the Hebrews were righteous enough (they probably didn’t know much about the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – they weren’t circumcised, they lived under Egyptian rule and likely even accepted Egyptian religious beliefs as normative and good). God sent Moses because God cares about justice.

The entire law given to Moses on Sinai was about protecting these trauma survivors from creating another system that thrives on injustice and unforgiveness. In Pharoah’s system, it’s “might-makes-right.” It’s “finders-keepers.” It’s “should-have-locked-your-bike-up-if-you-didn’t-want-it-to-get-stolen.” It’s “shouldn’t-have-been-home-alone-or-out-drinking-or-wearing-that- or-trusting-the-authority-figure-tasked-with-being-trust-worthy” if you didn’t want to be violated and invaded.

God says don’t covet your neighbour’s things, don’t lie to the innocent, or steal from the weak or swindle your neighbour. In God’s law, there’s rest – and not only for you, but for all people in your neighbourhood and all animals and don’t even get me started on the Sabbatical year when the land itself enjoys rest as well.

Exodus 20:1 says “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

This is the introduction to the ten commandments and God’s self-revelation. I’m the God who cares about justice, I’m the God who loves you, I’m the only one. Don’t make idols – look at one another and revere my image in them as you’ve seen it in yourself.

The table where Jesus instituted what we call, “The Lord’s Supper” is the Passover Table. The yearly meal which commemorates freedom from injustice.

In Exodus 13 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the LORD brought you out from there by strength of hand…You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the LORD may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt”

At this table, Jesus said, “this is my blood, this is my body – take and eat.”

How could we think the God who was crucified in solidarity with the crucified peoples of the world doesn’t notice injustice?

Sometimes Christians get really anxious about things like the “mark of the beast” – especially around elections and new vaccines. But notice the Exodus text here. Those who care about justice and liberty for the oppressed bear the mark of God on their hand and their forehead as a perpetual reminder. Those who are perpetuating injustice and oppression bear the mark of the beast. Beasts are inhuman. Jesus is the perfect human. Be like Jesus.

To become hungry for power and wealth and security to the point of turning a blind eye to the injustice required for you to obtain the power, wealth, security, you become beastly – less human. That’s it. Don’t do that.

Love celebrates justice. Love wants Justice to flow like a river. Love marches and protests and wants to talk policy change. Love is liberating. Love is always looking down and noticing who isn’t at the table. Love notices the marginalized. Love goes all the way down to Egypt and says, LET MY PEOPLE GO!

So let me get this straight – love keeps no record of wrong, but love doesn’t rejoice in injustice. Love rejoices in the truth. Here we go. That’s the way these two radical ideas come together. God isn’t keeping a record of your wrongs, but God cares very much about how our choices affect the people in our local and global neighbourhood. All told, love rejoices with the truth. This word is a big one – don’t think about truth as in “subjective vs objective truth.”

Think truth as in 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

Love unveils the truth. Love sees a truth that the accountant is trained not to consider. Love sees the heart behind the harm, and love is not afraid to point out the obvious.

One of my favourite folktales is Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the Emperor’s New Clothing. It’s about a greedy Emperor who is tricked into giving his fortune for non-existent clothing that is so beautiful and extravagant that only the truly wealthy and important people can see it. The emperor puts on his “new clothes” and parades through town, and since everyone has been told only wise and good people can see the clothing, everyone is deluded into praising the glorious emperor and his outfit in order to establish that the audience is just as good and worthy as the Emperor. A little child, however, doesn’t know about this secret game the adults are playing to prove their worth. The child is the voice of truth. “Mama, why is the Emperor naked?”

The words of the innocent point out the obvious – non-judgmentally, but with honest curiosity. The little one reveals the truth to the crowd and to the emperor – it’s all a façade. What are we doing here? How ridiculous to march naked down the street demanding compliance under the guise of prestige and worthiness. The child doesn’t know about prestige and worthiness – he just asks why the emperor is naked and why no one is saying anything about it. Love rejoices in the truth!

Chris told a very sweet story on Sunday about his young daughter sneaking juice boxes and hiding the evidence in a vent in her bedroom. Unbeknownst to her, the vent leads to a hole in the ceiling of the laundry room and Chris was finding piles of empty juice boxes behind the washing machine. The young daughter thought she had committed the perfect crime, and no one would ever know. Love is the thing that catches the evidence of our secret indulgences. Love’s reaction isn’t rage or judgement. Love knows nothing about rejection and abandonment. Love celebrates! Love rejoices!

Think of Luke 15:4-6, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”

If there’s a hidden hole where we shove the evidence of our secret indulgences, then love is the basket at the other end that catches the evidence and reacts with joy because love knows that truth is the only place where healing begins.

Love notices the harm caused by our decisions and our compliance with decisions made within the system that causes harm. Love rejoices when the one making and complying with the harmful impact of the choices sees the real people bearing the weight of our choices.

Jesus saw the truth of every human heart he encountered. He asked good questions and embodied a radical hospitality and a radical reverence for the person before him. He wasn’t rude to anyone. He didn’t have secret meetings to plan anyone’s humiliation. He doesn’t say to the sick, “I have healed you.” He often says, “Your faith has healed you” or “your sins are forgiven.”

When was the last time you came to Jesus’ table and told this truth: “I need help. I am not okay. This is not working. I am overwhelmed. I am lonely.”

That’s where healing begins. There’s something to celebrate about the person who musters up enough courage to speak the truth. Jesus knows the journey from the place where you first confess, “I need help” is the journey towards home.

So, Awaken church, what do you think? Can you accept a God who keeps no account of your wrongs, who isn’t waiting up to catch you? Who isn’t celebrating with you when your wars are won and the streets run red with the blood of your enemies? Can you accept a God who really really rejoices about the truth, whether it’s that you need help or that you’ve tricked yourself into delusions of grandeur or that you’ve been using the gifts of God in all the wrong ways?

And what do you think about turning towards one another in this community – to the new people, the people who’ve been here since the beginning, the people who left with a slammed door, the people who left quietly and wonder if anyone noticed, the young families and the young queers, and can you put down the red pen and stop keeping track? Can you make the choice to refuse to participate in gossip and slander and overall revelry when folks here taste their own medicine or trip on their own wagging tongue? Can you rejoice with the truth that you and everyone else here has needs and longings and a big heart held in captivity to the fear that there is no room at the table? This is it – this is the Work of Awaken. Jesus gave us a new command – to love one another as Jesus has loved us. This is our testimony, our hope, our great commission.

On the Cross Jesus looked out at his executioners and his friends and he said in surrender, “Father, forgive them – they know not what they do.” Jesus showed us a love that keeps no record of wrongs, a love that liberates all, and a love that always has an eye on the place where healing begins.

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