Jonathan Edwards on the Types of Injuries with which Love is Patient

When 1 Corinthians 13:4 teaches, “Love is patient” (or “love suffereth long”), it charges believers to endure injurious behavior from others. Jonathan Edwards explored this and considered several possible “injuries” we could encounter, and to which we must respond with the loving behavior of patience. Edwards’ list is below.

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From Charity and Its Fruits, Sermon 4: “Charity – Meek in Bearing Evil or Injuries” (or “Longsuffering and Kindness” in the recently edited version by Kyle Strobel). Eric C. Redmond edited the enumeration and formatting.

“I would briefly notice some of the various kind of injuries that we may or do receive from others:

  1. Some injure others in their estates by unfairness and dishonesty in their dealings, by being fraudulent and deceitful with them, or at least by leading them to act in the dark, and taking advantage of their ignorance;
  2. or by oppressing them, taking advantage of their necessities;
  3. or by unfaithfulness towards them, not fulfilling their promises and engagements, and being slack and slighting in any business they are employed in by their neighbors, aiming at nothing but just to meet the letter of their engagements, and not being careful to improve their time to the utmost in accomplishing that which they are engaged to do;
  4. or by asking unreasonable prices for what they do;
  5. or by withholding what is due, from their neighbors, unjustly, neglecting to pay their debts, or unnecessarily putting their neighbors to trouble and difficulty to get what is due from them.
  6. And besides these, there are many other methods in which men injure one another in their dealings, by an abundance of crooked and perverse ways, in which they are far from doing to others as they would have them do to themselves, and by which they provoke and irritate and injure one another.
  7. Some injure others in their good name, by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common, and no iniquity more frequent or base, than this. Other ways of injury are abundant, but the amount of injury by evil-speaking of this kind, is beyond account.
  8. Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them, and so cruelly slandering them. Others, without saying that which is directly false, greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors, exaggerating their faults, and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by thus uncharitably judging one another, and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another’s words and actions.
  9. Persons may greatly injure others in their thoughts, by unjustly entertaining mean thoughts, or a low esteem of them. Some are deeply and continually injurious to others, by the contempt they habitually have of them in their hearts, and by their willingness to think the worst about them. And, as the outflowing of the thoughts, a great deal is done to the injury of others by the words; for the tongue is but too ready to be the wicked instrument of expressing the evil thoughts and feelings of the soul, and hence, in the Scriptures (Job 5:21), it is called a scourge, and is compared (Psa. 140:3) to the fangs of some very poisonous kinds of serpents, whose bite is supposed to cause death.
  10. Sometimes men injure others in their treatment and actions towards them, and in the injurious deeds they do them. If clothed with authority, they sometimes carry themselves very injuriously toward those over whom their authority extends, by behaving very assumingly and magisterially and tyrannically toward them.
  11. Sometimes those who are under authority, carry themselves very injuriously toward those who are over them, by denying them that respect and honor which are due to their places, and thus to themselves while they occupy them.
  12.  Some carry themselves very injuriously toward others by the exercise of a very selfish spirit, seeming to be all for themselves, and apparently having no regard to the good or benefit of their neighbor, but all their contrivance is only to better their own interests.
  13. Some carry themselves injuriously in the manifestation of a very haughty and proud spirit, as though they thought they were more excellent than all others, and that nobody was at all to be regarded except themselves alone. This appears in their air and talk and actions, and their greatly assuming behavior in general, all of which are such, that those about them feel, and justly feel, that they are injured by them.
  14. Some carry themselves very injuriously by the exercise of a very willful spirit, being so desperately set on having their own way, that they will, if possible, bend everything to their own will, and never will alter their career, nor yield to the wishes of others. They shut their eyes against the light or motives others may offer, and have no regard to anyone’s inclination but their own, being always perverse and willful in having their own way.
  15. Some carry themselves injuriously in the course they take in public affairs, acting not so much from a regard for the public good, as from the spirit of opposition to some party, or to some particular person, so that the party or person opposed is injured, and oftentimes is greatly provoked and exasperated.
  16. Some injure others by the malicious and wicked spirit they cherish against them, whether with or without cause. It is not an uncommon thing for neighbors to dislike and even hate one another; not cherishing anything like love to each other in their hearts, but whether they acknowledge it or not, in reality hating one another, having no delight in each other’s honor and prosperity, but, on the contrary, being pleased when they are cast down and in adversity, foolishly and wickedly thinking, perhaps, that another’s fall is their own elevation, which it never is.
  17. Some injure others by the spirit of envy they show toward them, cherishing ill-will toward them for no other reason than for the honor and prosperity they enjoy.
  18. Many injure others from a spirit of revenge, deliberately returning evil for evil, for real or imaginary injuries received from them. Some, as long as they live, will keep up a grudge in their hearts against their neighbor, and whenever an opportunity offers, will act it out in injury to him in the spirit of malice.
  19. And in innumerable other particular ways which might be mentioned, do men injure one another; though these may suffice for our present purpose.”
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