Thursday, February 11, 2010

Without Love, You're Nothing

We're approaching Valentine's Day quickly. Gents, I hope you have everything planned out and are ready to pull the trigger when Sunday runs up on you like a desperate car salesman. With the holiday's approach one word is being tossed around a lot more than normally--love.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 yesterday, a passage quoted so often in weddings, even for people who don't believe in Jesus. The part that gets quoted isn't necessarily the whole chapter, just particularly vv. 4-8, the so-called "romantic" section that offers up truly one of the best definitions of love we know. yet the first three verses are so important for context because there in them Paul writes about what happens in the absence of love.

In 13:1 Paul says that if we can speak known languages ("tongues of men") or even unknown, mysterious languages ("tongues of angels"), but are without love, we are in essence a loud gong, a clanging cymbal. We are a bunch of noise with no substance.

For 13:2 Paul moves to prophetic power, immense knowledge, and great faith. These are very desirable for many, but without love, as Paul says we are nothing.

Finally in 13:3, Paul mentions sacrifice, first of possessions ("give away all I have") and then of self ("give my body to be burned"). Again, for the third time, Paul says that even in these, without love, we gain nothing.

All are challenging in their own right, but the third "list" gets to me the most because we live in a time where social action is so praised. For this generation, humanitarian aid and self-sacrifice are considered virtuous not only within the church, but by our culture at-large. Non-profits continue to grow, being eco-friendly is cool, doing benefit concerts are import to get the money from regular ol' folk to help support disaster relieve in Haiti. We are now expected in some sense to "give away all I have." The Onion, "America's Finest News Source," highlights this well in their article "Massive Earthquake Reveals Entire Island Civilization Called 'Haiti'." The title itself gets the point across well.

The question is: Do we do these things out of some sort of pressure, whether from the media, society, or even the church or are they done out of love? Are they done out of the love we know comes from God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)? Without love, even our greatest sacrifices of time, talents, treasures and even self are like dust.

John Piper in Let the Nations Be Glad provides great perspective on a definition of love that expands whatever notion we have in that love is "helping people toward God."

I have to ask this question as we plant a church in Chicago. Do I love the people of Chicago? Do I love the faces that stare off into oblivion as I walk down the street? Do I love the man who doesn't wish to say anything else to me except, "Can I get some money?" Do I love the Amanda and Roberto who live in my apartment building? Those in my neighborhood association? Do I love any of them in a way that is helping them toward God.

Are your thoughts, words, and deeds done in love? We must ask this continually as God's people. Paul sums it up well for us and I pray we take it to heart on this day, on Valentine's Day, and every day we walk with Jesus on this earth:
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love -1 Cor. 16:13-14

1 comment:

  1. I hit "next blog" for kicks and stumbled on your post. I recently prepared a talk and presented it at youth group on Friday. It was based on 1 John 4:7-21. I used Valentines Day and love (according to the world of teenagers) as the initial hook to urge them to look to the real thing. And yes, without God it is impossible to love. John also writes to his readers to claim to love God yet hate your brother, the claim is a lie.

    One of the applications from the talk was to sort issues out with people who are in Christ so that we may be more effective for service. The next night after my talk something occurred between me and my mum in relation to the application I just mentioned. Was I talking empty words or do I walk the talk?

    Valentines Day hits and prayerfully I approached mum and apologised for my actions/words. It may seem insignificant but if you know the background of our relationship it is quite a significant step for us to verbally talk about personal issues. Our family is not very verbal but in our hearts we know what's going on when it comes to forgiveness.

    I thank God for his Spirit which worked in us on Valentines Day to help us to love one another.

    As for 1 Cor 13 and your post I find it an assurance as a Christian, even if I fail, I know that God does not fail.

    Love never fails.