August 16, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 13)

Submitted by Sharon K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

  • Why is someone who “speak[s] in the tongues of men and of angels” but who is without love like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?” Reflect on the cheapness of words not backed up by loving conduct.

Someone who speaks in the tongues of men and of angels but doesn’t have love is like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal because this person is someone who is busy and preoccupied with what he has heard, what he can say, what kind of special gift he enjoys from God, and is ultimately full of himself.   Without love for others, this special gift from God can end up being all about himself, something that can make him feel confident and boastful about this gift and what might appear to be like his “special” relationship with God.  So for someone like this, this seemingly a precious and holy gift of “speaking in the tongues of men and of angels” is reduced down to just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  Just like how a noisy gong and clanging cymbal are only noisy, nuisances to people, this gift of speaking in the tongues can be a bothersome nuisance to people if there is no love.  However, if this person with this gift had love, he will be mindful of others, will be mindful of how to exercise this gift to build others up so he will be busy and preoccupied with others’ needs and their concerns above his own gift.  In the same way, words of encouragement, even words of hope or words of truth can be reduced to nothing, just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, if there is no love, no concrete actions of meeting people’s needs and concerns.

  • What is the tragedy of possessing gifts but not having any love?

The tragedy of possessing gifts but not having any love is that these gifts do not benefit anyone.  The person who possesses the gifts but doesn’t have love doesn’t benefit from them because it only makes him busy and preoccupied with his gifts, unavailable for others’ needs and ultimately the gifts will make him feel boastful and superior toward others. Preoccupied with his gifts and without love, it is possible that he becomes more self-centered and self-absorbed.  It is tragic in that seemingly good gifts from God, if received without love for others, can end up making us more arrogant and boastful, harmful for our souls.  Also, it is tragic in that those around him do not benefit from his gifts at all if he doesn’t have love.  He may have gifts of speaking in tongues, gifts of intelligence, gifts of teaching, gifts of administration, gifts of music, but if these were not used in love, if these were not used to meet others needs, they might end up not benefiting anyone.

  • What kind of person would give all he possesses to the poor and even surrender his body to the flames without love?  Why does Apostle Paul say that such a person gains nothing? 

A self-righteous person would give all he possesses to the poor and even surrender his body to the flames.  Without love, he doesn’t care about the poor and he might not even be scared for his body with the flames, but he can be someone who strongly believes in the act itself and do this out of sheer determination and strong will.  Eventually this will be a source of pride and self-righteousness.

Apostle Paul says that such a person gains nothing even from seemingly this sacrificial act of giving to the poor since he has not gotten rich in his heart from having precious people in his heart, but has only shriveled up with self-righteousness and pride.  Apostle Paul says he gained nothing due to the fact that he hasn’t become more loving through these acts of sacrifice and courage.

  • Is there some experience in my life in which I sacrificed without love and felt like I didn’t gain anything?

In the beginning years of my Christian life, I did a lot of things to supposedly to “love” people, to invite my friends to church, volunteer to serve in church activities and spend time, money and energy to help people move, help people with making care packages, giving rides, helping with cooking and shopping, and things that are sacrificial and good.  However, because I was NOT motivated by love, the ultimate concern that I had deep in my heart was about how others will perceive me, what kind of image I am creating for myself, and how I am approved and praised by others.  This was a period that felt so hollow and empty where I didn’t gain anything from serving and it just made me more tired and sense of guilt increased.  Also, without love, I became more self-righteous and proud.  With the wrong heart, heart of self-focus and self-absorption, even good acts of sacrifice did not result in a positive gain for me.

  • What is the end result of a life lived without love (cf. Luke 15:25-32)?

As described from the reactions of the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, the end result of a life lived without love can be characterized with bitterness, anger, sense of entitlement, demanding and self-righteous attitude, sense of blame, and not being able to rejoice even with his own brother or his father.  The older son might have worked hard everyday and might have seemed like a dutiful son, but without love, he was full of his desires and demands and the end result was really tragic and ugly.

  • List the things that Apostle Paul lists as useless without love.  Have I sought these things without hungering more for a loving heart?

The things that Apostle Paul lists as useless without love are as follows:

  • speaking in the tongues of men and angels
  • prophetic powers
  • understand all mysteries and all knowledge
  • faith to remove mountains
  • give away all I have
  • I deliver up my body to be burned

I think it’s easy for me to seek competence, knowledge, gifts of speaking in the tongues, spiritual gifts of prophetic powers and gift of teaching and faith that can remove mountains for a very selfish reason, wanting to boast about myself and my gifts without seeking them to benefit and love others around me.  All these things, without love, can puff me up and cause me to be self-righteous and boastful.  But if I seek to be a good minister, a good friend and if I seek for spiritual gifts all to benefit others, all these gifts can be used as such blessings for others and myself as well.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Without love, all the good things you have given me and I have done, can all be just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  Because I am a sinner, all these good and holy things of spiritual gifts and acts of faith and sacrifice can turn into nothing.  Please have mercy on me and help me to be reminded of Your love for me.  So that Your eyes of love and compassion will be my pursuit, the motivation of my heart and the ultimate goal of everything that I do.  Please help me to value love and being other-centered more than all my gains.  Please help me to pause during this busy season in ministry to be motivated by Your love for people and be mindful of people’s needs and concerns.  Please help me to see the people around me, be keen and sensitive on their needs and circumstances as strive to reach the campus with Your gospel of love.

Submitted by George H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

  • Why is someone who “speak[s] in the tongues of men and of angels” but who is without love like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?” 

A noisy gong or a clanging cymbal is loud and impactful in the moment, but the sound is really short-lived, hollow, temporary, and quickly becomes frustrating.   A person who speaks lofty words but does not have love to back them up is like a gong or cymbal in that they may sound good at first, but very quickly it’s revealed that there are no actions to back up their words, and such a person becomes really unpleasant to be around.  Their words just reverberate like a gong, but have no lasting impact and no meaning.  Like the clanging cymbal, whatever impact such a person has is really short-lived.

  • Reflect on the cheapness of words not backed up by loving conduct.

Words that are not backed up by loving conduct are really self-serving.  They make the person who speaks the words feel better about themselves, perhaps help them convince themselves that they are good, have good intentions, or that they have fulfilled their responsibilities to love by saying the right things.  However, those words are really cheap because they don’t result in anything tangible to the person they’re being said to.  For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to minister to the elderly who are in convalescent homes.  There, I meet so many lonely people who have felt the impact of cheap words from people who have disappointed them—relatives or children who say they will visit but rarely do, spouses who forget about them when they enter the nursing home.  These relatives have good intentions and say lofty words about how much they love the elderly person and that they will come and visit, but when these words don’t result in action, the elderly person is damaged and very hurt by the words.  So, the words end up not only empty and cheap, but actually very hurtful and damaging.  But, another thing I saw was just how automatically I also use cheap words, such as “I’ll pray for you,” or “I’ll come and visit.”  It’s so easy to respond to someone who needs to love with these words, but never follow through with the prayers or visits.  Those words give me something to say in response to their pain and hurt, but if I don’t follow through, the only purpose they serve is to help get me through the uncomfortable moment, and help them feel better temporarily.  Through my interactions with the elderly, I’ve come to see how flippantly I use words, especially “loving” words without follow through, and I need to take concrete steps to ensure that my promises, such as with prayers and visits, do not end up being just empty words.

  • What is the tragedy of possessing gifts but not having any love?

The tragedy of possessing gifts but not having love is that those gifts will not be used to benefit anyone but myself.  In essence, they are wasted.  It’s like keeping an incredible piece of art locked up in an attic where no one will have the opportunity to enjoy it.  Also, as every good and perfect gift is from God, possessing gifts but not having love is ultimately tragic because it misses the heart of God, who desires to draw all to Himself.

  • What kind of person would give all he possesses to the poor and even surrender his body to the flames without love?  Why does Apostle Paul say that such a person gains nothing? 

The kind of person that would do give all he possesses to the poor or surrender to the flames without love may be one that is driven either by intense guilt or some sort of messianic complex.  Perhaps he wants to be seen as a sacrificial person, and is so invested in this image of himself that he is willing to make bold sacrifices, but not the actual work of loving others.  Such a person may enjoy sacrifice because those things involved aspects that he can control—he can control the degree to which he is exposed to flame (though of course it’s painful), or the amount that he gives to the poor.  Though these acts are sacrificial, they are in the person’s control.  Loving others is not the same—when loving others, one surrenders themselves to something out of their own control.  They have no control over what the other person will do with that love. Will they trample it and view it as useless?  Will they reject them?  Will the hurt or disappoint them?  The more one loves, the more the potential is to be hurt.  Not only does the potential to be hurt increase, but there is what’s called a direct relationship between the degree that one loves and the degree to which they can potentially be hurt.  The ones that have the potential to hurt you the most are the ones that you love the most.  It’s a scary thing to love another person because of this factor of the unknown.

Another kind of person that may make bold sacrifices without love is one that may have what’s referred to as a slave mentality.  In my field of psychology, we study people who have what’s called learned helplessness—people who submit themselves to incredible circumstances or sacrifice because they believe that they have no other choice.  It’s one thing when it’s some sort of abusive situation, but quite another when we relate to God, because God is a loving heavenly Father who desires us to share in His heart instead of being slaves.  A person who makes these kinds of sacrifices but does not have love has tragically missed the entire heart of God, and is someone who has tragically missed the point.

  • Is there some experience in my life in which I sacrificed without love and felt like I didn’t gain anything?

I think that for many of my younger years, I was filled with a desire to be viewed as one who was competent and talented, especially vis a vis my friends.  Therefore, I involved myself in a lot of service and other activities at church, because I thought that that would add to the image I was trying to create for myself.  I focused so much on how I was viewed by others that I did not invest in growing a heart of genuine love.  Therefore, not only did I not gain a heart that understood God’s perspective, but instead I ended up with a competitive, envious heart that was sensitive and easily bruised. So, I missed out on a lot of growth that could have happened in my relationships with others.

  • What is the end result of a life lived without love (cf. Luke 15:25-32)?

The end result of a life that is lived without love is a life full of dissatisfaction.  Because such a person does not have love, he will be looking for something else such as signs of approval, and will be threatened by anyone who appears to have more of that than he does.  Because he doesn’t have love for others, he cannot celebrate with others, but instead will be relegated to a life of disappointment about his own life and bitterness to those who try to love him.

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you so much for showing me how often I am a person who is like a clanging cymbal, with lofty words and promises but without love.  Lord, I pray that you would help me to put aside my desires for recognition, the ways that I still possess a slave mentality, and seek to gain a loving perspective from your heart.  I pray that you would help me be man of love and substance, not one with lofty and superficial words.

Submitted by Sara H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

  • Why is someone who “speak[s] in the tongues of men and of angels” but who is without love like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?”  Reflect on the cheapness of words not backed up by loving conduct. 

Someone who wields eloquent and beautiful words without love is like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Instead of bringing peace and comfort, this kind of person has the opposite effect—noisy, clanging—on others, because his/her words are not backed up by loving conduct.  Their words lead to disharmony and sets people’s teeth on edge, since such people endorse lofty ways of living life but don’t live out what they say they believe in.  The truth of what Apostle Paul says here becomes so evident when considered in context of relationships.  The more we value the relationship, the more we look for actions to back up the words of commitment being said to us—our marriage vows, our declarations of loyalty… they’re all words that need to be fleshed out and embodied by actions that correspond to our promises.  So when a husband says ‘I love you,’ but doesn’t serve his wife or think about her needs, he might as well not have said those words. In this way, the fact that God sent his son in the flesh to prove that He is love becomes all the more meaningful, for we see God’s words and God’s actions coming together so perfectly in the personhood of Jesus.

  • What is the tragedy of possessing gifts but not having any love?  

The tragedy of possessing gifts without love is that all of it is futile.  Without the essential ingredient of love, all of these gifts are “nothing.”  This becomes all the more tragic in the church, if someone who is super-competent works without love, tries to serve God and people without love. It’s no accident that Satan was called one of the most elegant and gifted of angels, yet he gained nothing in his pride and lovelessness.  This is a sobering warning for me, as I feel insecure in my lack of this and that.  I need to remember that in God’s sight, there can only be “nothing” without love.  And this cannot happen without constantly checking our hearts and motives, without honest confession of what really motivates us.

  • What kind of person would give all he possesses to the poor and even surrender his body to the flames without love?  Why does Apostle Paul say that such a person gains nothing? 

Here, Apostle Paul brings up a counterexample to those who merely talk without acting.  And through the progression of actions in the first three verses (speak, have spiritual powers, sacrifice), we’re able to see how carefully we need to examine our “best” acts.  In a way, it’s easy to picture someone “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”  But what about those who do walk in ways of intense sacrifice?  There is no guarantee that we gain anything in God’s sight. Indeed, Paul talks about giving away all that he has and delivering up his body to be burned up—but if done without love, he gains nothing. This is a sobering truth for me to consider, especially as our church approaches outreach season with many chances to give of myself.  What is the state of my heart when I try to deny myself to engage in outreach, when I sacrifice free time in order to cook for someone or serve someone?  If I do it with the intention of trying to gain better standing before God without thinking about really loving people, then I gain nothing.

  • Is there some experience in my life in which I sacrificed without love and felt like I didn’t gain anything? 

There is a great difference between duty and love—that is, the outcome often looks the same, but the feeling and experience involved are very different.  For example, when I engage in my tasks as a mom, they feel endless sometimes, but much of it done with joy because I’m thinking about pleasing my kids.  So the busywork of washing dishes and clothes, cooking food for them, etc. isn’t wearisome.

  • What is the end result of a life lived without love (cf. Luke 15:25-32)?

The end result is a life that doesn’t connect with the Father’s heart, where I become embittered like the older son who lived a life of duty and obligation, but without joy.  It’s a life that is far away from the sounds of joy and celebration in the Father’s house.

  • List the things that Apostle Paul lists as useless without loveHave I sought these things without hungering more for a loving heart?

Apostle Paul lists things like angelic speech, great faith, prophesying powers, intense sacrifice as things that are useless without love.  I have sought out these things as ends in themselves rather than hungering more for a loving heart in the past, and today’s DT is a warning to me about the need to keep love at the center of my desires and motivations.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the way you not only describe love, but how You embody it through the personhood of your son, Jesus.  I confess to how I often value other things than love because I am still caught up in looking good to others.  Please help me to have your values, and to know that there can only be “nothing” without love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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