If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 13:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Made it to 1 Cor 13 in the study of love. Looking at verses 1-3, note that these verses are all about accomplishments without love. Speaking in tongues, having immense understanding, earth-shattering faith, giving away all my stuff, and being a martyr are all feats we automatically respect.
Let’s put it in terms of what’s going on today:
- If I had such powerful speech that I could convince everyone to be a conservative (or a liberal, or an indepedent), but I did it without love…I’m a noisy gong.
- If I were so wise that I won every.single.Facebook argument, without loving the people I’m arguing with, I’m nothing.
- If I were so religious and believed God so much that I could prevent a landslide from wiping out a village, but without love I’m nothing.
- Take this a step further, let’s say we all got together and fixed world hunger, by giving away everything we all had. But we didn’t love anyone. They’d still be empty inside.
- What if we got all Christian’s (everywhere) to agree that our style of music/church/politics is right, but we did it without love.
Paul is not saying these aren’t good things. Paul is not saying don’t even try. He had prophetic powers, he had faith, he gave what he had, he sacrificed himself, so clearly, he is not denying the place of significant acts.
Here’s the thing though. A lot of times, the accomplishments is our goal. Our goal is to solve racism, so we try to tell everyone to not be racist, or our goal is to stop hunger, so we tell everyone to give food to everybody.
Here’s the hard part. Let’s just get this on the table. I don’t love 100% all the time. No one does. So, in some part of my life, I’m the noisy gong. At some activities or sacrifices, my effort is in vain. How do we tell the difference? How do we identify when some sacrifice I’m making for someone has stopped being a gift of love, and has started being an empty investment? Listening, wisdom, discernment, the Holy Spirit.
Listening. How do I know when I’m not loving my wife? She tells me. Literally, words. Now, like all human communication, sometimes the words are not the message. She isn’t telling me, “you’r not 1 Cor. 13’ing anymore.” But she does say when there’s a problem. Not every argument being had on Facebook is one we as Christian’s have to win (I’m telling myself this too), but every argument is one in which someone should know that they are loved.
Wisdom. God promises if we ask for wisdom, He’ll give it. No conditions. Just ask.
Discernment is one of those skills, you can only get by using, which is both good and bad. Good because it means you can get better, bad because you’re going to have to mess up to get better.
Holy Spirit. The one who speaks to us showing us the truth we need in the moment.
Let’s ask for Him to speak a little louder, so we stop confusing our accomplishments with actual love for God.