“At my first defence, no-one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” (2 Timothy 4:16/NIV).
Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” – Today I am moving on to the last phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:5 and I am following the rather plain wording of the New International Version. I am trying to explain this by looking at an example from the life of the apostle Paul. This is going to be a post on the verse from (most probably) the final epistle of St. Paul.
We cannot tell from other parts of the New Testament what Paul is writing about here. The account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts is coming to an abrupt end saying that the ‘prisoner’ was not confined to a prison cell, but he was allowed to stay in a rented house of his own. He then was free to welcome whosoever would visit him. For two whole years, he was allowed to stay there. We read: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31/NIV).
From his Epistle to the Romans we learn that Paul had planned to visit Spain also after coming to Rome. We do not really know if Paul could ever fulfill this intention. If so we might suppose that he was released after the two years referred to at the end of the book of Acts. But we are not told anything about Paul preaching in Spain in the New Testament.
In the fourth chapter of his second epistle to Timothy Paul is alluding to his death being at hand. He believed in God helping him and delivering him from evil attacks, saying: “The Lord … will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:18b/NIV).
“At my first defence, no-one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.”– Expositors commonly suppose that Paul here speaks about a trial before the Imperial Throne of the Roman Emperor Nero.
We do not know who Paul might have expected to speak up to support him before this court. Yet Paul says that with regard to this trial many, who could have testified to support him, failed to do so.
Earlier in the chapter, he says about a certain Demas who had left Paul and went to Thessalonica, because “he loved this world.” Only Luke –known as the author of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts – was staying with Paul at that time. (Verses 10+11).
Perhaps there were some believers of high standing in the church at Rome who could have spoken up to support Paul before the Imperial Court. Yet they left him on his own.
Remarkably Paul says: “May it not be held against them.” Most likely being left alone by many was a painful experience to the apostle. Yet he was quite prepared to forgive.
Probably these were people to whom he had been preaching and testifying about the Lord Jesus. Most likely he had spent much time praying and ministering to these people, even during his own affliction.
Much earlier Paul had written to the Corinthians: “Love … keeps no record of wrongs.” Now it is evident that Paul himself was motivated by love.
He had been doing his best to strengthen many individuals in the Christian faith. Now at a very difficult time, they left him alone. Yet Paul though (perhaps painfully) disappointed is not keeping record of this wrong. He rather prays that this may not be held against them. He is determined to still seeking and desiring their best. He still is asking God to bless these unfaithful friends.