If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
On Sunday we talked about how important it is to have love as the central driving force behind everything that we do. Motive matters.
That verse two really got me thinking: "If I had the gift of prophesy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge [...] but didn't love others, I would be nothing."
I tend to really value knowledge. I like to be RIGHT. However, I think it is clear from this passage, that being right doesn't matter as much as being patient, and kind, and humble and compassionate. Verse 5 even says that "Love... does not demand its own way."
The United Methodist Church is entering into a very crucial conversation at the end of this month on a topic that we are very divided about, all centering around how we love and include LGBTQ+ people. There are many different opinions, many different interpretations of scripture - everyone wants to be right, and most people think that they are. In this passage above, Paul reminds us that even if we have the most correct understanding of things - it would not matter at all if we do not love.
Now of course, truth in love is best. We should not just agree and ascribe to any idea out there in an attempt to be kind. In verse six we read "Love rejoices in truth." But truly living in loving relationships with one another requires us to admit that we do not always know the truth. In fact, we rarely know the full truth - that knowledge belongs only to God. "We know only in part" (9). Love requires us to be slow to anger and quick to listen. "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance" (7).
The United Methodist Church has had a long history of agreeing to live together, united by love, even when we do not agree on things. We do not say to another part of the body "I have no need of you." In the words of John Wesley:
“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
In a polarized world, where people are unfriended for holding a differing belief, and kicked out of families over the smallest of argument, and marriages end in divorce because of irreconcilable differences - a world full of brokenness and division - we are called to be salt and light. To not be conformed to the world but to set an example to the world by our love for one another.
Please join me in praying for our delegates who are attending the special general conference at the end of the month. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully in their time together. Pray that love would be the driving motivation of every word and decision. Pray for people to truly hear one another, and hear each other's hearts. Pray for love and unity so pervasive that it becomes a witness to the world of a different way to live, that glorifies our God... because being right, is nothing if we forget to love.
Leading up to the General Conference that is to be held in St Louis, Missouri on February 23-26, consider setting an alarm on your phone or watch to pray for four minutes each day between the hours of 2:23 and 2:26pm. You can also visit www.umcprays.org to be part of the larger prayer community in the UMC that is praying for this gathering, and individual delegates by name.