I took a step back on the stage, grabbed a drumstick, and then pulled up a cymbal and stand to the left of my table. I paused for a moment. Then, still teaching my mes- sage on love, I abruptly changed my words into rude and cruel remarks, crashing the drumstick onto the cymbal while continuing as if nothing were happening.
“My opinion on immigration is . . .” *crashing cymbals*
“My opinion on politics is . . .” *crashing cymbals*
“My opinion on marriage is . . .” *crashing cymbals*
“My opinion on abortion is . . .” *crashing cymbals*
When I stepped out from behind the cymbal stand, I asked if everyone had heard everything I had said in the last few minutes. Some of them laughed. Some of them said, “Amen.” Some of them still had their hands over their ears in case I smacked the cymbal again. They’d gotten the point.
If we aren’t speaking in love, nobody is going to hear what we are saying, no matter how truthful or important it might be. They’re not going to listen to us or respect us. And yes, our world is certainly full of crashing cymbals, many of whom don’t know God’s love, so the urge to act this way makes sense. But many of us who call ourselves Christians fall into the trap of sharing our opinions in a way that is unloving.
We can’t love others without the love of God. The love of God is kind and compassionate. No matter how deep or truthful we may think our words are, if we’re speaking and acting without love, no one can hear us. Anything said without love isn’t worth saying at all. Anything done with- out love isn’t worth doing at all. And you can imagine what it must feel like for those being criticized by people who think they are doing so in “love,” when really it’s just out of a misplaced sense of pride or superiority or judgment. Those being criticized hear nothing but the crashing of cymbals. But the moment love enters the picture, the clanging stops. Our voices become clear. Our words become valuable again.
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2-3
Without love, nothing matters—not speaking in tongues or having the gift of prophecy or possessing all knowledge or even having faith that could move mountains. We could know all sorts of things about God, listen to all the sermons we can get our hands on, write books, be the best worship leader or teacher or preacher—but if we do any of those things without love, nothing matters. It’s all a waste of time.
It’s possible to act spiritually and say you follow God but be nothing more than a fake, a Pharisee, a love-heretic. God sees people doing it daily.
Without love, we can’t fulfill God’s calling for our lives. Without love, we can’t engage in the relationship that God yearns for. And without love, we can’t truly reflect God’s image at all. Try to think of a single person who is doing incredible things for the Kingdom of God without the love of God. That person doesn’t exist. Life without the love of God will let you down and lead you in the wrong direction. We were meant for a life empowered by love, in which God’s love affects every little thing we do.
Paul continued his love chorus, showing us exactly what this kind of love is supposed to look like—and what it doesn’t look like.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand
its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:4-12
Love is patience and kindness—no jealousy or boasting or rudeness or selfishness. Anything that keeps a record of wrongs or rejoices at injustice is not love. Love is said to endure every circumstance that life throws its way. If we plan on living a life of love, this is how we’re supposed to live.
I’ve always wondered about that last part of this group of verses. The spot where Paul said, “Three things will last for- ever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (verse 13). What does it mean that love is greater than faith or hope? Consider this: Love encapsulates faith and hope. Faith and hope make up the DNA of love.
“The greatest of these is love” because the greatest of these is God—and God is love. God is the essence of love itself.
Taken from Love Is Oxygen by Jarrid Wilson. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Jarrid Wilson is a husband, father, pastor, and founder of Anthem of Hope. He is the author of several books, including Jesus Swagger, and is a popular blogger at jarridwilson.com. Jarrid and his wife Juli, live in Nashville, Tennessee, with their two boys.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Rohappy
Publication date: September 25, 2017