1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (the message)
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
The Lord used these verses this morning as a gentle reminder for me. This past Sunday morning in the hurry and scurry of having all of my volunteer responsibilities covered before getting to service, I put someone off when she asked me to pray with her. At the time it seemed I was doing us both a favor since I could hear the music starting and didn’t want either of us to miss out on worship. I sweetly asked this young woman to meet back with me after service and she agreed. Yesterday, however, I told her I was sorry and asked her to forgive me. Her response was thank you and she understood I was busy. Yikes…
Many times in the past as I read the scripture above I secretly thought speaking God’s Word, having bold faith and giving my possessions and my time was love. I understood the point being made but still couldn’t fully grasp what perhaps I see a bit more clearly today. God’s love is always about people. Sometimes we get confused or mislead in our attempts at “walking in love.” Sometimes we let our speech (or writing!), our declarations of faith in our trials and our giving become our love walk. We can let our efforts and our sacrifice and our pursuits overshadow the very reason we do those things. When a precious 19-year-old woman sincerely tells you that she understands you didn’t pray with her on the spot because you were busy it should stop you in your tracks. I’m stopped.
Certainly I had to fight off some guilt and condemnation over the past couple of days. Truly, it’s not my heart to let the “stuff” I’m doing surpass the people for which God has me “doing.” Jesus is so kind and gentle, though. And I am grateful for this lesson. I’m grateful to see how easily we can let real love give way to lesser forms of service. I’m quite sure that if God wills for us to speak His word, pray bold prayers of faith, give everything we own or give our very lives it will be power-packed and overflow with His presence if our focus and motives have the people He loves in the crosshairs of our aim.
The truth is that even as we “serve” God in various ways we can easily drift into letting it be about us. Not necessarily wanting to be admired (although that is a possibility), but needing to cross items off our list…give 100% in excellence…simply do a great job. Is there anything wrong with that? No, not as long as we let God’s love steer us. I went to service Sunday morning knowing I did my best but if in my desire and rush to move to the next thing I missed an opportunity to extend God’s love in a very real way, then it wasn’t really excellence, was it? I would venture to say, in all honesty, that when I offered to pray with her after service I must have sounded like the loudest and most creaking of rusty gates.
In my journey of getting real with God, He has been stretching me to go ahead and reach out and offer to pray with people when they share needs/concerns. It started a few months before I resigned from nursing when God would tug on my heart to offer to pray with my patients. It was terrifying to me but each time it became easier and I saw that when God leads I can trust Him. And worst case scenario someone says no, which did happen, but I didn’t shrivel up and die! I just said okay and smiled. So often we won’t step out when God asks us to because we are so afraid, but if we take the chance we’ll surely find that even the rejection we fear won’t really matter when our hearts are to obey. My heart is to share that we should remain alert and sensitive to people. Even when our hearts are sincerely to please God in what He gives us to do, we must always let Love lead us. God’s heart and His purposes are always out of His love for people. I don’t think it matters so much if our preaching, teaching, projects and programs are a hit if people aren’t drawn closer to God’s love because of them. I have grown to love praying with others! And yet I let it take a backseat to the next thing I needed to do or place I needed to be. Certainly a lesson worth learning.
Christ-following is always for Love. Because of Love. In Love. Without it we’re just making noise.