Love is the answer. Love is the action word. Love is the evidence. Make love first. Put love first. Lead with love. And in doing so, open yourself up to not look good in the process. You don’t need to look good. Jesus does…
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
In the early Christian Church, as characterized in this letter to the church at Corinth, people were elevating the profile and importance of certain spiritual gifts. Tongues, prophecy, faith, and generous giving are each mentioned here as examples of gifts people desired or even showcased as evidence of God’s presence in their lives. How would people know God is present in your life?
We definitely want to look the part, don’t we? In the old days, the best way to do this was the big black leather-bound Bible that you could carry to show your Christianness. If the pages were well-used even better. Oh, and the big cross around your neck is a must to reflect major Christianness. With Jesus or without? Depends on the impact you are going for… I got Jeee-sus on my neck-l-ace, ace, ace, ace… (Ke$sha).
It’s the same issue. Well, perhaps not quite. The gifts of prophecy and faith and tongues did have a very real purpose and an administration by the Holy Spirit. And the person whose Bible pages are worn probably does actually have some miles on the Word of God to know and follow the Saviour. But here is Paul’s point:
Without love, my life is just noise.
Without love, I am nothing.
Without love, I gain nothing.
Love is the answer. Love is the action word. Love is the evidence. The other day I was focused on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:37-39 in which he boils our faith down to loving God and loving others… fully. That’s it. Love.
But what about telling people what is right and wrong? What about truth? What about judgment and confronting sin? I just started read The Gospel Comes With A House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. She gives some really important advice in striking the balance between loving others and going easy on sin. She says, “Love the sinner and hate your own sin.” Let that sink in.
We want to love the sinner and hate the sin, which normally means that we tell people we love them, yet we always add a ‘but’ to make sure they know that we do not approve of them or their sin. We hate their sin. Now imagine the sin you hate in that person is a sin which has become core to their life. Let’s say it’s living together before marriage. God calls that fornication and it goes against his design for relationships. If we ‘love’ our neighbour, yet remind them that we hate unmarried co-habitation because God hates it, we create an incredible affront and a stumbling block in our relationship.
Then you say, That’s okay… the gospel is a stumbling block! We need to stand for the truth.
Okay, twist it around. How about you tell your neighbour you love them and then as you get to know them you confess to your neighbour that as you are trying to live for God and follow Jesus, you struggle with a grudge you hold against your Mom from years ago. You know it’s wrong and you really want to honour your Mom because that’s God’s command. You hate that you keep bringing it up in your own mind and sometimes with your Mom. It’s a sin and you battle with it.
Love the sinner and hate your own sin. Neighbour feels loved. Neighbour learns about sin and God’s standards and how people can battle with them toward victory in Jesus. Except that we like to poke people in the eye, don’t we? Jesus taught about this (Matthew 7:1-5): “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.”
Want to see clearly? Make love first. Put love first. Lead with love. And in doing so, open yourself up to not look good in the process. You don’t need to look good. Jesus does.