Memory shapes behavior. Think about it. The way you act and behave, the decisions you make, in large part, come down to memory. What I remember pushes me and pulls me in different directions while I live life. Memory serves us by steering us away from pain, and pulling us toward pleasure or security. It protects. Memory shapes behavior. For this reason, the older we get the wiser we become. For this reason, a loss or confusion of memory in a loved one breaks our heart, because, without memory, they aren't the same. Memory quickly becomes a friend to us in this life, yet not always. Sometimes memory makes it harder to live right. Sometimes a Christian must refuse to let a memory shape their behavior. This is why Paul writes in First Corinthians 13:4-5...
"Love... does not take into account a wrong suffered..."
We remember when others hurt us. Who, among those reading this article, do not remember some slight or mistreatment you received from a sibling or relative before you hit the age of ten? I vividly remember the day my brother told me about "Silver Bees." Apparently, our garage in Joliet, Illinois was home to a special species of bee, "Silver Bees." According to my brother (and his overactive imagination), a sting from a Silver Bee was instantly lethal. I think 4-year old Jonathan stayed inside the house and away from the garage door for a month after he told me that lie. Of course, that is a silly story of sibling mischief (before either of us knew better). Others have memories far more potent and painful. Some young men, and even old men, hold memories of physical abuse at the hands of their fathers. Some wives hold memories of the affairs of their husband. Wrongs, especially those suffered at the hands of others, can easily become unforgettable.
We often say that Jesus calls us to "forgive and forget," but Jesus never demanded we forget. And to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we always have a choice in the matter. There are many things I'd like to forget, and many things I've tried to forget that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forget. The vast majority of the time, we do not choose our memory, rather, memory is etched upon my mind against my will leaving me powerless to erase it.
That's why Paul writes, "Love... does not take into account a wrong suffered..." Appreciate that Paul does not say that "love forgives and forgets." Instead, he teaches that love makes a conscious effort concerning those unforgettable offenses; I never take them into account. Paul knows that we can't choose to forget every slight. He knows we can't will out of our minds the ways others have offended us. Memory doesn't work that way! He knows we are going to remember the horrible things others have done to us, so he teaches us that love demands we do not take those offenses into account. Love doesn't count.
Memory shapes behavior, but Paul urges us in this text to not let those memories shape our behavior. Do not allow the memory of a wrong suffered influence how you treat a person. He is not simply explaining that you shouldn't count how many times I do you wrong. What he asks carries much more profound implications. He implores that we do not let a wrong suffered, in any way, diminish my responsibilities toward you. Love demands that my will overwhelm my memory. Love demands that you care for me, encourage me, fill my needs as a brother in Christ, pray for me, teach me, love me, no matter how difficult it feels, no matter the obstacles I have put in your way, no matter the mountain of wrongs I have committed against you. Paul demands that you love me by choosing to not count the times I was unlovable.
A few times, well-intentioned Christians have asked me this question, "How can I forget what someone has done to me?" I sympathize with that. It hurts to remember the offence. We want to forget, because treating someone right would be easier if I couldn't remember how they'd wronged me! Some want to forget because they feel like they haven't forgiven until they've forgotten. Let us keep in memory what Paul teaches us here; love is not measured by my ability to forget what my brother did, love is measured by my willingness to not count against him any and all of the ways he has offended me. Love doesn't count.