The Christian is to keep no record of wrongs. Yet I find it every bit as important to keep no record of rights—of the right and good things we have done to others. And that’s because the accounting we are always tempted to keep is not merely of other people’s bad deeds but our own good deeds. When we become convinced there is a disparity between the two, we can become despondent and entitled—despondent that we are not being loved as well as we are loving and entitled to be loved more and better.
We’ve heard it at both weddings and funerals, as both aspiration for a life lived together and as commemoration of a life lived well. In these two contexts and so many others we’ve heard the “love passage,” the Bible’s beautiful description of love enacted in the life of the Christian: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.” And so on.
One of the descriptions can be rendered in a couple of different ways, but most translations understand it as a term related to accounting: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Here we have the image of a person opening an accounting book to carefully record every wrong that has been done against him. He writes a date, he writes a name, he writes a description of the hurt or harm, the insult or injury. And he does this not only to chronicle it all but to justify future retaliation.
To keep such a close accounting, a person must first be observant. He must look for every wrong that has been done to him, he must make a careful study of it, and he must write out a precise record. He has to be more than a casual observer of wrongs, but a scrupulous student of them.
In contrast to this, the Bible admonishes us toward something like a self-controlled modesty in which, just as we might avert our eyes from another person’s nakedness, we avert our eyes from another person’s sinfulness.