If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1, esv).
I doubt you’ve ever had an angel talk to you. But if it were to happen to you someday, I’m guessing his speech would be more articulate than anything you’ve ever heard before. I don’t imagine an angel stutters, for example, or loses his train of thought. If one of these messengers from God happened to walk in and start talking to you, or came onto a platform and addressed a crowd, nothing that anybody else was saying at the moment would be of any interest to you whatsoever.
And yet Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Even an angel, in other words—if speaking without love—might as well shut his mouth. There’d be no point in anything he had to say.
The stratospheric, standout, single thing that is supposed to characterize the church of Jesus Christ is the way we love each other.
Imagine then how this same principle applies to the rest of us, who “speak in the tongues of men.”
The church in Corinth had many things going for it. They were “not lacking in any gift” (1 Corinthians 1:7). They had good doctrine in their heads and believed the right things. Paul commended them for holding “firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2, nasb). They were vibrant and impressive.
But . . .
Love was absent there. The stratospheric, standout, single thing that is supposed to characterize the church of Jesus Christ is the way we love each other. In Corinth, they held firmly to the truth—they just didn’t love each other. And absolute truth in the hands of absolute sinners is absolutely brutal.
All truth and no love is brutality.
That’s a hard statement to make. But do you know how to tell if it’s descriptive of you? Let me give you five quick indicators.
• You know you’re all truth if those you’re responsible for leading give you passive resistance instead of resistance to your face. The reason they don’t tell you stuff is because telling you stuff is too painful.
• You know you’re all truth if people say you don’t listen. How many times in the last couple of months has someone who’s close to you told you that?
• You know you’re all truth if you pride yourself on your realism. If it’s true, you just say it—no filters. Telling it like it is; keeping it real–always and at all costs.
• You know you’re all truth if people who disagree with you have to separate from you. Do people who don’t share your strong opinions feel the need to avoid you?
• Lastly, you know you’re all truth if you’re arguing with me in your head even as you’re reading these.
Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be fired up about the truth. You should be. I am. I’m just saying you to need to be fired up about the truth about truth-and-love. Because anything less is a lot of painful noise that’s probably better left unsaid.
Unless you can say it in love.
Father, Your Word is truth, and I love it. But You are also love, and I need to learn the truth of that. Help me live with Your perfect love that puts others before myself and puts grace ahead of judgment. Show me how to trust more deeply in Your Holy Spirit to do the convicting work I sometimes try to hijack. I ask You to make me a person who sees love as the centerpiece, and sees truth as a loving part of it. I pray these things in the name of the One who personifies truth and love—the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.