February 16, 2011
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)
Was I overly sensitive? Or was he simply being rude? For months I struggled with these questions, and repeatedly gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was busy, I thought. Or pre-occupied.
His ability to perform the job wasn't in question. His talent and gifting at his craft were obvious. Yet in pursuit of the goal of excellence, people were collateral. Maybe not everybody, but I was.
It didn't take long for God to place a mirror between us. Instead of him, I saw my own reflected tendency to do the same. In fact, years ago God pulled me out of ministry for a time to address my love of the job over love of people. I was definitely like Linus in the Peanuts® comic strip when he declared, "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand."
Interestingly, that attitude is not an option for a follower of Jesus. More than being a recommendation on how to act, loving others defines us. How we love others makes us who we are. Without love, we are an empty, but beautifully wrapped package.
I learned this lesson during a season of leadership in children's ministry. I loved the children and work, but the volunteers got on my nerves. Resentment grew when they cancelled at the last moment for flimsy reasons, or came unprepared. Instead of cultivating a heart of love and compassion, I dismissed them mentally and continued working. No one ever knew … except God.
At the same time, God addressed my love for my family. In my devotion to serve Him, there were many times when my family paid the price with my snippy attitude or harried schedule. Reining me in, God used today's key verse in First Corinthians 13 to teach me what mattered most to Him: "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
Was that how God saw my service? Was it a loud but empty offering? It seemed He was saying, Glynnis, I appreciate what you are doing, but I really want you to love those around you more than I want you to lead children's ministry.
The lesson to love others was hard learned. Sadly, I still find myself slipping into project-over-people mentality. Because of my internal make-up it may always be a struggle. Yet God has truly changed me with this question: How am I loving others? It's a question I try to ask myself every day, and often make adjustments in my attitude and behavior.
Being on the receiving end of a project-over-people situation was painful. Yet it was a good exercise to practice loving others. And thanks to the imaginary mirror God hung, I took a look at my current areas of responsibility. Apparently, I needed a refresher course in loving well.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your gracious and loving kindness toward me. I'm so thankful You see my potential, in spite of the times I choose to go my own way. Help me to set aside my need to accomplish a task, and choose to love others as You desire. Forgive my self-focus, even as I label it "service." I long to be more than a clanging cymbal, I want to be a woman who loves well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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Welcome to Community: Experiencing Life the Way God Intended by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer
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Pick one area of responsibility and ask yourself this question: How am I loving others? If the answer is "not well," chose to show love to three people in the coming week.
First Corinthians 13:1-3 seems to be addressing Christian service. Do I think it's easy to substitute service for love? Why or why not?
The Bible places a high value on love, even higher than all the other acts of a Christian. Why is that?
1 Corinthians 13:2-3, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (NIV, © 2010)
© 2011 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.
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Originally published Wednesday, 16 February 2011.