One of the most tritely spiritualized phrases — “God is love” — is also one of the most profound theological truths: God is Love.
Thanks to the webs and the socials, our world goes crazy for pithy quotes and feel-good mottos that can be blasted across the cosmos in a split-second. Encased in a hipster font. Overlaid on an angsty photo. Accompanied by a looping indie soundtrack.
But followers of Jesus are not nourished by pithy quotes or strengthened by feel-good mottos. When we say “God is love” without considering or understanding its doctrinal depth, we sabotage truth and diminish sacred Love to an empty cup of meaningless blather.
If reduced to merely a feeling, a response, a motto, or an action, Love is just another viral blip on the digital horizon.
But we know better, for:
God LOVED us enough to take on flesh and carry our sins unto death.
Christ LOVES us as the Father LOVES Him.
God’s lavish LOVE enfolds us as His children.
God’s great LOVE leads us from death to life.
Nothing in all creation can separate us from the LOVE of God.
…And perhaps most pressing of all:
The world will know we are followers of Christ by the way we LOVE each other.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives shape to this kind of LOVE, extending far beyond feeling, response, motto, or something to do.
LOVE is ...
We love this description of Love, overflowing as it is with supernatural significance and spiritual wisdom.
But lists are easily set aside, checked off and skimmed.
By their very nature, single words (especially when extracted from their surrounding context and exported into a tidy list) are at risk of being folded into a sound-byte, a motto, or an empowering quote.
Paul’s letter protects against this, if we would simply pay attention to the surrounding discourse.
The “Love is” list — (each individual item of which should utterly infuse the head, hearts, and hands of all disciples) — is preceded by a compelling and convicting explanation of what Love means in daily, actual and obedient practice.
To really drive home the essence of Love, Paul juxtaposes it with the most esteemed and deeply desired ministry gifts of that day.
We would all do well to follow suit, in our specific ministry setting, in which case:
If I were the most clever camp program director of the decade, funny enough to do stand-up comedy on the professional circuit, able to write a clever schtick with a mere moment’s notice, renowned for both my slapstick and sophisticated humor, but don’t love, I would be nothing but a bag of meaningless cheap laughs that gives birth to despair.
If I were the most articulate speaker in my area, who engaged listeners with exciting narrative and compelling illustrations, confident and calm in front of a crowd, wondrously clever and memorable in each club talk, adored and admired by all the kids (and probably all the other leaders), but don’t love, I would be nothing but a bag of hot air that dumps poisonously empty words on all who hear.
If I were the most influential ideator of my division, who developed fresh organizational theories and enacted fierce strategies that result in exponential growth and expansion, outpacing my colleagues in advancement and recognition (and maybe other things, too), but don’t love, I would be nothing but a lifeless quantifier that diminishes ministry to a means, and dehumanizes people from imago Dei to item.
If we would both be and form disciples, we must remember that God is Love and we are called to love as Christ loves.
So what about you? What piercing If I were statement might you need to face and then reject? What “greater gift” of ministry — whether you have it or desire it — threatens to destroy your one and true call to Love?
If I were _______________________, but don’t love, I would be _____________________.
Written by: Crystal Kirgiss, V.P. of Discipleship (firstname.lastname@example.org)