Christianity without love is pointless. It is worse than nothing as it negatively affects the world around us.
Have you ever had someone talk at you? Not talk to you or with you, but at you. Where it becomes evident that the person that is supposed to be conversing with you is not actually involving you in the exchange. They are just expressing their love of and preoccupation with themselves all over you. It is like a verbal vomiting attack. They have no interest in any response from you or your feeling about what they are saying. They are just in getting out what they want to say.
How does that make you feel? It is really hard to have any interest in the subject that person is talking at you about. You want to pull the ripcord and get out of there as quickly as you can. Loved is just about the last emotion that comes to mind, isn’t it?
Have you ever heard a really unpleasant noise? Like hearing someone scratch their nails on a chalkboard or the sound of a dentist’s drill as she drills a tooth. It is terrible, annoying and effects you down to your very bones. The louder it gets the worse it is.
This is the picture of religion without love from the Bible. Christianity is no exception. It is an expression of selfishness that comes off as really unpleasant to those around. Yikes, it sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
This is the idea that Paul is getting at in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Take a look at how Paul begins 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
He compares loveless Christianity in all its forms to two really annoying discordant sounds of his day. We don’t hear noisy gongs or clanging cymbals much today but the idea is something that makes a ton of noise and is jarring and irritating. Think of perhaps a fire engine’s siren, though less rhythmic. If the Apostle was writing today, he might have written if you don’t have love it is like nails on the chalkboard. It is a sound that is clear and not easily misunderstood. One that is so wrong that no matter how loud you make it doesn’t get any better. It is just louder bad noise.
Paul was writing to Christians who had lost sight of love in the following of Jesus. Much like a person talking at you, they had made everything about them and their expressions of self. They were supposed to be following Jesus but in fact, their church was about their pride. Their faith was self-centered and self-serving. Church became a contest to see who could speak the loudest or in the best tongue.
Since they made life all about them rather than Jesus, it was impossible for them to demonstrate true love for others. Loving yourself that much precludes loving others with any authenticity. You just care too much about taking care of yourself to care much for others. The flesh is a greedy beast to feed.
Because the Corinthians were so prideful and self-focused in their walks with Jesus, their use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was worthless. Paul says it is nothing to prophesy or speak in tongues if we don’t have love. Even worse, their actions were like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. They were creating an unmistakable, discordant, and annoying impression for everyone around them. Paul goes so far as to say that it would have been better if they did not meet as a church for all the damage they were doing.
For lack of love, they were changing the beauty of God’s own gifts given through His will through His Spirit into something worthless and off-putting.
What was meant to be the Body of Christ moving perfectly together to testify to God’s glory was an uncoordinated mess. Love for the Lord and love for each other is what is supposed to keep the Body in harmony. Since it was nowhere to be found, the Corinthian church was stumbling around like a newborn colt. They were doing a lot but no one would call it beautiful.
We may be shocked by this idea but look around at some portions of the church today. You don’t have to go far on the internet to see pastors preaching with such anger and hatred that even though they are stating truth from the Bible, what comes across is ugly and lacking in power. There are others who are doctrinally sound but so intellectually focused that the Gospel that they preach is cold, aloof and forbidding. They have the truth of the Bible but without the love of God, it is creating a really confusing picture. They have lost sight of God’s love so they have completely lost the message brought to us by Jesus Himself. For God so loved the world He sent His Son.
God is love. Jesus is God and is also therefore love. Jesus was sent into this world as a man because God so loved the world. Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbors. Jesus said that the world would know us as disciples by our love. Love is so essential to who God is and to what we are as Christians that Paul makes his really strong statement. Without love, even Christianity is nothing. We can never lose sight of love and still live the life that Jesus has for us in Him. God is love. A life without love is a life without God prominently in it.
So if we have gotten far down a path that looks like Christianity but is not filled with love, turn around. If we are working really hard for the church but are doing it in anger and resentment, stop. If we are so busy with serving we have no time to love the people we are supposed to be serving…just stop. It profits us nothing and creates a jarring discordant sound. Only start again when we are able to say for certain that it is the love of Jesus compelling us and the love of the Holy Spirit coming through us.
No matter what it looks like to our eyes, if we don’t have love we are nothing. We all want to be something in the Body of Christ, right? So Love and Love greatly!