If I speak in the tongues of man and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
If you have not figured it out yet, you'll soon realize that each of these "forgotten opportunities" or "diseases" that our churches produce have a nasty habit of compiling synergistically. That is, they build on top of each other. If you go to a school playground and watch kids play, you will see how much energy the average child puts into tearing his or her friends down with sly remarks and "put downs." I am not a child psychologist, but my observations in working with youth for many years is that youth mostly get this from their parents; they are being "put down" at home and so they naturally reciprocate by putting one another down. This extends into adulthood as our tendency becomes to tear one another apart. God calls us to put one another together!
It is just like sin; when we do something wrong against God, it not only affects us as individuals, but it also affects everyone around us. Sin affects family, friends, and the body of Christ; even God Himself (who is hurt by this sin, because God is Holy and His character and who He is remains un-affected). Each of these diseases build into one another just as cancer starts with a single cell that builds on itself, then that cell mutates until it starts spreading into the whole system. Malignancy occurs when the spread is not reversible and soon affects the entire body. The body of Christ, the people who claim Jesus as Lord, are to be in fellowship together.
What Love Is
If I speak in the tongues of man and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift or 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. 1 Corinthians 13:2-3
First Corinthians 13 is our template of how we must behave toward one another. We can do our best at preaching the gospel with power and conviction and have a church filled with wonderful programs and staffed with gifted people. We can be in a magnificent cathedral reaching upwards and manifesting and pointing to the glory of God. But, if we're doing it for ourselves and not out of love, we are accomplishing nothing. Our love must be sincere so it is not involved with only self interests, rather motivated to please God. If not, we are as an annoying noise to our neighbors to whom we are called to reach.
Even having great faith is useless, and probably not even real, if love is not coupled with it. Without love, our relationships are shallow and ineffectual. We can become a broken, confused, prideful, and arrogant person, steeped in bitterness and dysfunction from failing to embrace what love is. Therefore, haplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, and hurt will become our guides, our identity, and how we are in our churches. How sad that can be!
Love as an Ability for the Church
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
The proper use of our abilities and gifts as a Christian is always within the parameters of love. Look at love this way: When a computer is programmed, the program runs because the language has instructed the program what to do. Within this language of computers there are parameters, which tell the program what it can and cannot do. Thus, the program can only operate within its own guidelines, its parameters. We must look at this passage as our parameter, as our guideline on how we are to execute the gifts, exercise the passion, and proclaim the truth.
Most pastors, including me, have stated in wedding homilies and sonnets that this is the marriage passage, the love a man and woman share together in matrimony. This passage, of course, applies to marriages; however, this passage has nothing to do with weddings and everything to do with how we, the people in the Church, are to treat one another! In fact, this passage is in the context of Spiritual Gifts and church leadership, and how each Christian is to operate in the world and in the church with the gifts and abilities God has chosen to give each one (1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40). These are the operational parameters for our behaviors. They are not limited to marriage; rather, this love is to be extended into all of our relationships. Agape, the Greek for true, effectual love does not have a target; it only has a response and a choice. It does not have boundaries that the Hebrew hesed had in the Old Testament. It does not apply to only those to whom we want to give it. It does not have attractiveness or even like in its sites; it is an expression of grace that has all of humanity in its audience!
In contrast, a virus is designed to do the opposite. That is why they are so destructive, can eradicate all of your files, and crash your computer. We must look at this passage as our parameter, our guideline as to how we must execute the way we are to be and thus exercise the passion of what Christ has done on our behalf. In so doing, we are proclaiming His truth. Our operational parameter in church relationships-how we operate and relate-is to be love. We must stay clear of viruses that will destroy our church.
© 1999, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org