I once had a roommate who borrowed my clothes and ate my food without asking, lied about having done both, and made up far-fetched stories with regard to her life. Even though I wanted to believe the best about her, it got to a point that I worried she might go through my things and finding something like a bank account number. How do you love someone in a situation like that? I never really found out, because we ended up moving from the apartment. But sometimes, when I hear the famous passage from 1 Corinthians that says love “believes all things,” I think of her. It just sounds foolish and naïve, doesn’t it, to support this roommate—or anyone, for that matter—whose behavior could hurt me?
Taking a closer look at 1 Corinthians 13:7, I see the Greek word Paul used for “believe” was pisteuó, which is not exactly rare–it appears almost 250 times in the New Testament. And that makes sense, considering the number of times Jesus urged people to believe, taught what it means to believe, described what would happen for those who did or didn’t believe, and so on. With His “crazy” claims of Lordship and the backlash from both skeptical religious leaders and Roman officials, it’s no wonder Jesus spent many of His words persuading men and women to trust Him.
One of those times Jesus used pisteuó was right after walking into the temple, where He was politely ambushed by several religious leaders who were probably feeling threatened by His authority. When they pressed Him, saying, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly,” Jesus replied, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:24-27, emphasis added).
In all likelihood, and according to what we know about them from elsewhere in the Scriptures, these leaders weren’t legitimately curious but were trying to corner Jesus into making a “blasphemous” statement. Regardless of their intent, this was His answer: I already told you and I’ve already shown you, and neither was enough. No amount of evidence would convince someone who didn’t want to put faith in Him. That’s the thing about belief–we think it should be rooted in facts and evidence, to be something our human minds can make sense of. But then, where does the act of believing come in?
We think belief should be rooted in facts and evidence, to be something our human minds can make sense of. But then, where does the act of believing come in?
Whether Paul intended it or not, his writing that “love pisteuó-s all things” may have reminded the Corinthians of stories they’d heard about Jesus before—how He insisted to crowds over and over again that following Him would be worth their while. They’d heard about His miracles and healings, His resurrection and ascension, and then leapt to belief in Jesus’ name, much the way we do today. But to hear pisteuó used about relationships rather than in the context of salvation was new for the Corinthians. Paul was imploring them to apply the same sort of “less than empirically provable” belief to their friends and family as they did to Jesus. The apostle claimed that undeserved, dedicated support of people in our life is a demonstration of love. “It’s being committed to another person’s well-being, security, and best interest and is not dependent upon that person’s lovability or favorable responses,” according to Dr. Stanley.
If 1 Corinthians 13:7 seems irresponsible to our modern view of life, perhaps that’s because it is. While our parents and friends would encourage us to be vigilant, to connect all the dots before trusting others, this passage of Scripture says, Don’t wait. It tells us that love champions others, no matter how many—or how few—logical reasons we have for doing so. Love won’t always make sense, and it will require some sort of leap of faith from us—like the one Jesus asked of His skeptics, or the one we made to receive His grace.
Illustration by Adam Cruft