"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." - I Corinthians 13
Sometimes I lose track of love. I get so wrapped up in showmanship that I forget the primal purpose of living. Nothing matters if it is not drenched in love.
There are four hollow acts that can be performed devoid of love:
1. Elequent Speaking - This particular point touches a nerve with me since I spend alot of time in my line of work with my mouth open. It is easy to want to impress people with your dazzling illustrations and spellbinding revelations. I could easily get absorbed in sculpting lectures and homilies and speeches and leave behind the heart of love. The mastery of language falls short of God's deepest desire. There is no place for Big Talkers or Big Mouths in the kingdom. If my words don't first soak themselves in the wellspring of my heart, I best keep my mouth shut.
2. Sharp Intellect - Knowledge is power. It grants us the sick ability to live above the unfortunate plight of the common man. As the Bible says, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." There is something so repugnant about a heady, high minded intellectual that lords his smarts over those less versed and educated. What good is it to fathom mysteries if you're always trying to talk over every one elses heads? Have you ever heard a preacher convey his research and thought to yourself, "I hope he knows what he's talking about, cause I sure as heck can't make heads or tails of what he's getting at." You sit there feeling stupid. It's like this person vacummes the very last bit of life you had in you and leaves you limp. This is what happens when the brain trumps the heart.
3. Robust Faith - This is where this verse gets a little unnerving to me. You mean to tell me that you can have the kind of faith that moves mountains and in God's eyes it's not worth a hill of beans? This means that on the outside things are still going gangbusters, breaking records, and turning heads. Churches are building bigger buildings, hiring more staff, and writing books to pass on their power-principles for success. It is staggering to imagine that such apparent favor could be a vapor, a chasing after the wind. I wonder how many get lost in robust activities of faith and abort the love train. I wonder if this isn't talking about ministries that become ingrown with thier own self-serving programs and forget about the broken world outside their walls. They pray together, sing together, and sit together in the safety of their little faith flock. "If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." becomes their mantra and their marijuana . They are moving mountains and losing love. And the lump sum of their busy faith-filled gatherings is a gigantic goose egg. Notta. Diddly squat.
4. Self-Sacrifice - This strikes at the deepest demonstrations of devotion. Charitable denotions to the poor and even martyrdom are assessed as meaningless without love. It is obvious that Paul is leaving no stone unturned as he addresses the urgency of a love-driven life. If I have one problem with the "Purpose-driven life" it is that it is quite possible to fullfill a purpose without love. It just takes discipline, duty and determination. A little mind over matter. This passage says that you can even put yourself in harms way without being moved there by love. It's amazing the length that some will go just because of being pressured or guilted into it. I remember riding in a car with someone and they were not paying attention to the car stopping in front of them. They were barreling down the highway going 55 mph and it was obvious that we were going to drill this car. I actually sat in the back seat and decided that I would rather get into an accident than yell out and possibly offend the driver of the car. This just shows that nature can be overridden by nurture given the right circumstances. You can't always judge a book by it's cover. There are people who lovelessly carry on with Christianity hitting the bullseye in every conceivable spiritual discipline and yet will stand before God as naked as a newborn without so much a loinclothe of love to cover their messed up motives. Note to self, clothe yourself with love here and now.
This passage just pierces me time and again. I want to be reminded of the hollow nature of performance in the eyes of God. I never want to get caught up in the game of impressing myself with my own spectacular feats of strength. The spectacular is a spectacle.