“Love doesn’t keep a record of complaints.”
1 Corinthians 13:5 (Common English Bible)
Country music artist, Old Dominion, recently released a new song, Some People Do. Co-written with Thomas Rhett, this moody ballad explores how hard it is for most people to change, particularly abandoning unhealthy and hurtful habits. Old Dominion self-identifies this track as very emotional and personal, the story of someone accepting responsibility for behavior that has hurt someone very close to them. Considerably more raw and vulnerable than other songs in Old Dominion’s canon, Some People Do begins, “I know you’re hurt. I know it’s my fault. But I’ve kept ‘I’m sorry’ locked in a vault.” Such honesty is rare today. Perhaps that is because it is scary to admit – without reservation – that we are the one who is wrong. Many people are willing for relationships to remain broken than venture into the scary place of vulnerably; of confessing that all responsibility for the hurt falls on them.
Danya Ruttenberg shares in her spiritual autobiography, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, that following her parents’ divorce, she was angry with both of them. “I held on to my anger and resentment as tightly as I could, but my need for both of my parents was, it turned out, determined to emerge despite it all.”[i]That is precisely the journey taken by Old Dominion’s song, Some People Do. Love for another is so deep and determined that vulnerability is risked, “Most wouldn’t forgive what I put you through. But I’m here tonight, hoping some people do.” Hope is the dominate note that is struck by this song. Hope for forgiveness. Hope that the one who has been hurt will not keep a record of complaints. Hope for the opportunity for a new beginning.
1 Corinthians 13, often referenced as the “Love Chapter” in the Bible, is commonly read for marriage ceremonies. Certainly the author of these words, the Apostle Paul, would have no objection to his words used in this manner. What would unsettle Paul is how easily they are read and heard with apparently no grasp of the difficult terrain they cover. “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.” The original readers of Paul’s letter will recognize his string of negatives. They are the prevalent qualities that draw from the attitudes and behavior of the Corinthian church. We recognize them as well. Little has changed in the human heart. We find it hard to ignore a slight, indifference, or a hurtful remark. As the song repeats three times, “Most wouldn’t forgive what I put you through.”
Ultimately, Paul appeals to his readers to look away from the wider culture and its negative manner of addressing the wounds caused by another. The hope espoused by this lovely song – the hope for forgiveness – is located in the values that come from Christ, not from the wider culture: “Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things” (verse 7). Some People Do begins with an uncommon honesty of the pain that has been inflicted upon another. And the song recognizes that “words by themselves can’t right all things.” Words often are not enough. Forgiveness requires more. What is required is a new orientation in Jesus Christ by the injured one. It is an orientation that makes possible what most people won’t do – forgive those who seek forgiveness. “Most wouldn’t forgive what I put you through. But I’m here tonight, hoping some people do. I’m hoping some people do.” It is a hope located in the values of Jesus Christ.
[i] Danya Ruttenberg, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 18.