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“Love is Blind”

Proverbs 10:12 and others
Bob DeGray
July 31, 2005

Key Sentence

Overlooking is an expression of love.


I. Overlooking requires love. Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8
II. Overlooking requires wisdom. Proverbs 19:11, James 5:19-20
III. Overlooking is a form of forgiveness. Proverbs 17:9, 1 Cor 13:4-7


        There are few places that family closeness and love are as tested, or as obvious, as on an extended camping vacation - at least for the DeGray family. The trip we just took was fantastic - we got to see and experience things we’d looked forward to for years. But there are also stresses - long days, some sickness, occasional car troubles, and simple things like the lack of clean laundry or showers when you camp in the National Park System. But I have to hand it to my family - there were countless times where conflict could have developed if someone had chosen to mention something, but instead people usually overlooked those things. In fact the amount of peace in the midst of vacation stresses was notable. And there are many times in life when the best approach to peace-making is to overlook things. This is well illustrated by my story about the couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and a young woman asks "What's the secret of your fifty years?". The wife shares that she and her new husband decided to make a list of ten things they'd overlook for the sake of their marriage. Someone asks, ‘What was on your list?" and the lady responds, ‘Well, I never actually got around to making it, but every time Harold did something I didn't like I said to myself, ‘Boy, he's lucky that's one of the ten'. Overlooking, when rightly done, is a powerful aid to peace with others.

        But where does this ability to overlook come from? I must admit that I had no answer to that question, or even an understanding that the question was important until I looked at the verses in Scripture that talk about overlooking. There aren’t that many of them - maybe eight texts total, and of those a couple just didn’t seem to fit. So I ended up with six texts, most of them one verse, and I stared at them quite a while asking myself ‘how are these related? what are they saying?’. Then I noticed something that should have been obvious from the first: almost all of the significant texts about overlooking relate it to love. Overlooking is an expression of love. Nothing else but love is strong enough to overlook the faults and even at times the sins of others when you’re in a close relationship. But when you love someone you do, intentionally, overlook faults that would otherwise cause conflict.

        That led me to the expression ‘love is blind’. I don’t really know the origin of the phrase, but I know it’s used to describe an inability people in love, especially young people, have in identifying each other’s faults. You’ve all known cases where someone fell in love with a person who was obviously wrong for them, and a louse to boot, yet nothing could make the other person see reality. That’s what we mean by ‘love is blind’. But I think Scripture teaches that love should, at times, be intentionally blind, should not see the faults and little offenses and sometimes even the sins that another person commits so that the relationship can be maintained, and conflict minimized. Overlooking is an expression of love.

I. Overlooking requires love. Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8

        Let’s find out more by looking at these six verses that use the phrase ‘overlooking’ or ‘covering’ sin. The first two make the connection to love clear. Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

        Almost every verse in Proverbs uses some kind of parallelism to make it’s meaning clear. Proverbs 10:12 uses what is called antithetical parallelism, in which the two parts of the verse express opposites. First part: hatred stirs up dissension. When you hate somebody you try to get them in trouble - you look forward to conflict - you promote it. Now most of us would never admit we hated anybody, whether in our family or in the church or elsewhere. But maybe we need to look at our behavior - if we consistently stir up dissension against others by our words or our actions then we are acting out hatred, even if we won’t own the emotion.

        Hatred; conflict. Second part - love; and the covering over of wrongs, or sins. The word wrongs is one of several Hebrew terms for sin, and it implies a break in relationship between two people, including two nations, or people and God, or two individuals. So it’s a bit broader than just sin - any break in your relationship with others is, at times, is an appropriate reason to over look, or cover the wrong between you.

        The word ‘cover’ is interesting. It’s a fairly common Hebrew verb, used about 150 times, and the usual usage is literal. Frogs covered Egypt in Exodus 8:6. The pillar of cloud covered the tabernacle in Numbers 9:16. It is also used more generally to mean "conceal" or “hide” In Genesis 18:17 God says “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do.” And it can also mean forgive. In Psalm 32:1 David says “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!” Psalm 85:2 is very similar and has the same parallel, and the word is translated forgive in other places. So the overlooking of sin and wrongdoing is not and cannot be merely the covering over of that wrongdoing, though that is the result. It must include forgiveness. We’ll see at the end of this message that overlooking includes the key elements of forgiveness we’ve studied in Sunday School.

        And it’s always driven by love. Even God’s forgiveness is driven by love. In Psalm 32:1 it was God who forgave our transgression and covered our sin. He atoned for it, which is a related word in Hebrew; he paid the price of our sin by covering it with the blood of Christ. And he did it because of his love; when God reveals himself to Moses it is as “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” In Numbers Moses reminds him of that: ‘In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people.’ God forgives as an expression of his love for us; but he does not do it arbitrarily. We are called at times to overlook sin, and we do so because we know that we’re not any more righteous than the person who sinned against us.

        But God is righteous, he is holy and sinless and he cannot let sin go without justice, without payment. So he sent his son to pay the price for our sin: God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And only through that death can we find forgiveness. Paul says “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.” God forgives us as a free gift, but it’s not free to him - it cost him the death of Jesus. And because it’s a free gift to us, it is by nature not something we work to earn, but something we receive: it is grace poured out on everyone who believes. When you recognize your own inability to pay for your sins, and trust that what Christ did is the key to forgiveness, God gives it to you, freely, lovingly.

        In the same way our forgiveness, and our overlooking of sin, is driven by love. Just as hatred is revealed by stirring up trouble, so love is revealed when we overlook the faults of others. Love is intentionally forgiving to the incidental slights and frictions and even character flaws and sins that are inevitable when we know each other well. The book I read a few months back said Everyone’s Normal until You Get to Know Them.” In that author’s terminology, each person is a rag doll, each is flawed, each a cracked pot. You can accept this truth and learn to forgive people and overlook their idiosyncracies, or you can ruin your relationships by ruthlessly pointing out every little slip - we call this nagging or being critical - or you can isolate yourself from relationships and become a hermit or recluse. Most of us mix all these things, but some of us could use a higher proportion of overlooking. That’s what love does.

        Peter tells us the same thing. 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” The great command the New Testament adds to the Old, attested by Jesus and Paul and John and Peter, is “love one another” Here Peter literally says ‘for each other, have fervent love’ The word ‘fervent’ or ‘deep’ is a great addition to the thought, because it literally means ‘stretched’ Stretch yourselves to love one another, extend yourselves, get out of the comfort zone to make this happen. It’s not going to be easy to overlook, to forgive without even mentioning some things. But that’s the love you need to stretch yourself toward.

        Peter says such love covers over a multitude of sins. This word ‘cover’ is from the Greek ‘kalupto’, which literally means to hide something by covering it over. It’s used in the Gospels; in Luke 8:16 Jesus says “No one lights a lamp and covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed.” In the end times he predicts, Luke 23:30, that people will ‘say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!" When Peter uses this word metaphorically, it must have the same image, of covering over something so it cannot be seen - covering over a multitude of sins. He’s saying that we need to stretch our love so that it forgives without mentioning and thus covers over and hides from our view no small number of sins that may be committed against us.

        Now in many ways this sounds wonderful and it is; it’s a very important skill to learn; an even more important skill to practice. But it can be dangerous. If you remember the Peacemaker’s slippery slope diagram, there were three escape responses to the left, and the one furthest up the slope was denial - saying that a problem or a conflict didn’t exist in order to avoid it. There were six peacemaking responses on the top, and the one furthest down the slope to the left was overlooking - forgiving an offense without making a conflict out of it. But it’s very easy be in a situation and to say and even think that you’re overlooking an offense when you’re really denying the significance of the offense and continuing to boil about it on the inside.

II. Overlooking requires wisdom. Proverbs 19:11, James 5:19-20

        So how do we know when it’s appropriate to overlook? Two of the ‘overlooking’ texts we’ve identified give us some insight into this. Proverbs 19:11 A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. James 5:19-20 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

        Answering the question ‘when should I overlook?’ requires wisdom. The verse in Proverbs teaches that it is wisdom that guides us into patience and into the overlooking of an offense. The word ‘overlook’ is a very common Hebrew word that means passing over or crossing over, as when the people of Israel crossed over the Jordan river to enter the promised land. So when we overlook an offense we pass over it without making a big deal out of it. Let me give a few examples. Say you’re a wife, and you and your husband have been unable to have the children you deeply desire. Now you’re in a group situation with a young mother who is enthusiastic about how wonderful it has been to become a mother - and you’re saddened and put off by her enthusiasm and lack of sensitivity to your situation. But no offense was intended, and you should probably overlook the offense you felt and not make a big deal of it, to her or others. There are many situations like this: choices you’ve made that differ from others, and when those others express enthusiasm for their choices, or criticism of your choice, you take offense. I think the mature approach is to let other people make their choices, and you take responsibility for the choices you’ve made, and don’t let them become a ground for being offended or offensive.

        Habits are another form of offense we sometimes need to overlook. I have the ingrained habit of leaving my pants from the previous day on the floor by my bed, with my money, wallet and keys in my pockets. If there’s ever a fire, I’ll be ready. Now is this habit offensive to Gail? I don’t know. But if it is, she’s graciously overlooked it these last 26 years - and I think that’s been wise. Even larger offenses need to be overlooked at times. I always remember the story of Charles Spurgeon and his wife Susannah. She had a little egg business - raised chickens and sold the eggs, and she was frequently criticized because she never gave any of her eggs away. Even close relatives were told, "If you want them, you have to pay for them."

        Since Spurgeon had a huge church and a generous salary, some people labeled them as greedy. The Spurgeons accepted the criticisms without defending themselves. It was only after Mrs. Spurgeon died that the whole story was revealed: All the profits from the sale of eggs went to support two elderly widows. They could have defended themselves against the offensive remarks, but choose to overlook them.

        On the other hand, as James teaches, there are many times when the right way to deal with an offense is to straighten it out between the two of you. Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. Here we see an active turning of the sinner, someone being brought back to the truth by the intervention of another person. It is this intervention that covers the sins in this case. The whole conflict resolution approach that we’re teaching this summer says “If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault.”

        Not all sins, not all offenses can or should be overlooked. How do you tell the difference? The Peacemaker material offers several guidelines. First, is this truly an offense, a sin, or as I examine myself do I find a critical attitude I have that has caused me to identify an almost entirely innocent act as a malicious act? If it’s my problem, I need to overlook the offense. On the other hand, if this sin is causing harm to you, or to others or to the person who is offending, it should not be overlooked. If you see a person doing drugs or addicted to alcohol or destroying his marriage through anger or indifference, you do him no favor at all to overlook - the kindest thing you can do is to confront. Again, if the offense is causing you to become bitter toward someone, if you can’t truly forgive when you overlook, if you continue to hold something against them, you probably need to go to them. One of the tests I’ve suggested for this is what I call the three day rule: If I’m still thinking about the offense three days later, it probably needs to be dealt with.

         So there is wisdom in overlooking an offense, and also wisdom in not overlooking, and Scripture affirms both responses. What we need is the wisdom to discern between the two circumstances. If you never find a case where an offense needs to be overlooked, you’re almost certainly being too critical. And if you never find a case where an offense needs to be confronted, you are almost certainly in denial about some key relationship. Pray for wisdom to recognize the right path.

III. Overlooking is a form of forgiveness. Proverbs 17:9, 1 Cor 13:4-7

        And when you do choose to overlook, do it right. Our Scriptures teach us that overlooking is an expression of love and a form of forgiveness. Proverbs 17:9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. 1 Cor. 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

        Last week y’all studied the whole area of forgiveness, and the promises of forgiveness, and even touched on some of these verses. I don’t know exactly what you said, since I was driving the last thousand miles of our trip at the time, but I know that Peacemaker’s says we need to commit ourselves to four promises of forgiveness: I will not think about this incident. I will not bring this incident up and use it against you. I will not talk to others about this incident. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

        Overlooking an offense involves very similar commitments; it’s a form forgiveness. The Proverbs text says “he who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Again, this is antithetical parallelism: the two halves of the verse are opposites. In the first half overlooking, or covering offenses with forgiveness is an expression of love; it promotes the love of friends. But in the second half, if we fail to keep the promises of forgiveness, especially when we’re supposed to be overlooking, we separate friends - we promote conflict rather than resolving it. In particular the promise of forgiveness that ‘I will not talk to others about this incident’ is critical when overlooking. I think we all have the sinful tendency to say to others ‘oh, dealing with so-and-so is hard. They’ve said stuff like this and that to me that I’ve just had to overlook for the sake of getting along’. Maybe that’s true, but sharing it with others means you haven’t really forgiven the sin. And repeating this stuff can be dangerous. Word gets around and before long that person will know you’re a self righteous hypocrite - saying you’ve overlooked my so-called sin, but then gossiping about it. We all have to learn that if we’re going to forgive we have to forgive, and not repeat. That’s love in action.

        The 1st Corinthians 13 verses are all about love in action. Notice particularly the phrase ‘love keeps no record of wrongs’. The promises of forgiveness ‘I will not think about this incident. I will not bring this incident up and use it against you. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship’ are all about not keeping a record of wrongs. And the eradication of that record is key to overlooking. If you continue to dwell on a mental list of things you’ve overlooked, your forgiveness will rot into bitterness and antagonism. As the author of Hebrews teaches “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy . . . See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Unforgiveness is the key cause of bitterness. Philip Yancey summarized the teaching of Lewes Smedes on forgiveness when he said “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." On the other hand, as another author said in a Christianity Today article, “The one who pursues revenge should dig two graves.”

        But 1st Corinthians 13 says a lot more about love than just ‘don’t hold a grudge’, and most of it applies to overlooking. We overlook to express a love that is patient and kind. We overlook because love is not rude or self seeking or easily angered.

        We overlook because love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. We overlook because love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. If we didn’t trust God and put our hope in his work in a person’s life, we could never overlook. If we didn’t have patience and kindness, we would never overlook. And more than anything else, if we were filled with pride, with self, we could never overlook. Instead every little fault, every little wrong would make us defensive and angry: ‘How dare you do that to me? How dare you say that to me?’. Overlooking is a form of forgiveness, but even more, it’s an expression of love, and must grow out of a full-orbed, 1st Corinthians 13 love for other people. That’s the message of these Scriptures.

        I receive a daily update and devotional from an organization called ‘Prime Time with God’. While I was on vacation the author, Os Hillman, wrote a devotional on ‘overlooking’. He quoted Psalm 19:11, “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” and went on to say “I have a friend whom the Lord taught this lesson through his wife. It seems that every time he and his wife would get in the car to travel somewhere, his wife had a strong need to direct his driving. She would tell him where and when to turn, even in their own sub-division. It drove my friend crazy and became the source of many an argument.

        Finally, one day my friend concluded that the Lord was trying to teach him something through this experience. He decided he would let go of his need to be free from this correction. He began to affirm his wife and even thank her for her input. A few months passed. He let go of the entire situation and actually got to a place where it just didn't matter to him anymore. More months passed, and then one day his wife looked at him and said, "John, I just realized that I have been directing your driving all these years and I think I know why I do that. It goes back to my childhood when I had to direct my younger brothers and sisters. I am so sorry I have been doing that." My friend nearly fell out of his seat!”

        Overlooking is an expression of love, a form of forgiveness worth not only practicing, but perfecting in wisdom. As you encounter the idiosyncracies, the offense, and even the sins of other, won’t you first ask yourself the question ‘should I overlook this?’ God will call you to do so, as an expression of a love that is like his.