“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
People will talk about how Jesus must have been an amazing speaker for such big crowd to sit and listen to him for hours. He must have been an incredible skilled orator who could inspire others in a way no one else could. After all, He was God so he must have been the best. Thousands of people must have listened to him because he was an amazing speaker. I’m sure that was probably true, but I also think there was another reason why people were so inclined to listen to Jesus. I think they understood that He actually cared about them, and not just getting them to agree with his viewpoint.
The world is full of clanging cymbals today. Many of these people giving out these noisy messages actually have a lot of good things to say. They are often speaking truth, but they are being ignored. We comfort ourselves by saying that Scripture says the end times will mean people will not want to hear the truth, and will turn to other messages that sound better to them. We tell ourselves the fact that people refuse to listen to our truth means that the end of the world is near. I’m sure there is some of that. No matter what we do some people will not listen to the truth, but are we making an excuse in order to make ourselves feel better? I fear the answer to that question is yes.
There are some types of people that I need to distance myself from on occasion. There are people I need to distance myself from during an election year because all they ever do is talk about politics. They feel the need to explain why I am an idiot for not seeing things their way. Sure they may not call me an idiot directly, but the analogies of Americans voting for one party or candidate are just dumb sheep going to the slaughter tends to get insulting after a while.
I had points in my life where I had to distance myself from people on a theological crusade. Calvinism debates were all the rage in college. There were some people where I just had to say they had to make the choice to either not bring up the debate every time I talked with them, or not make a point to seek me out for discussion at all. This was one that always bothered me the most. People demanded to discuss the issue, and they demanded I see things their way. They may have even made some amazing points, but it was lost on me because there was pride and anger hidden behind those truths. They cared more about their viewpoint than they did me.
Sometimes there are people who can do nothing but give criticism. It may be good advice they give, but it remains constant. People shy away from those kinds of people because the criticism and rebuking is simply too heavy of a burden. The love and compassion is lost.
The gospel itself can be hindered when love is not shown. If we act as though we are selling a product then we won’t get very far. The power of the gospel can be seen in our lives. We can extend God’s love to others, but we need to care for the individual, and reach out to them as a person rather than another number.
All of this makes me wonder how others perceive me. Do they see me as someone who loves them and cares about them as a person, or am I just another guy with an agenda? It does not matter what I say, if people know I do not care for them they will shut me out. If I refuse to show compassion then I have not earned the right for them to hear me. I need to show I have an interest in them. This means not always bringing up theological issues or a rebuke over their actions and behavior. Are there times to speak truth into their lives? Yes! Absolutely! However, I need to earn their trust. Trust is not something that comes naturally.
I want to love the person even if they decide not to believe what I have to say. That is really tough. When you share the gospel with someone can you honestly say you love them no matter the outcome? In fact, before you even share the gospel with someone stop and think it over. Ask yourself two questions. Do I genuinely love this person I am about to share this truth with? What have I done to this person so they know my love for them is real? If you cannot answer both of those questions then you need to work on showing love before you do anything else. You may want to give another rebuke to that person, but maybe today is the day you just give them love and encouragement. You may want to point out that theological issue again, but perhaps they are going through a hard time and they just need someone to listen to them and minister to them. You may have a desire to share the gospel with them, but maybe they need to know you love them first so they will be willing to hear.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”