“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 12:31b; 13:1-3).
Worship was just minutes from starting. We were late leaving Sunday School because I was trying to fit in something that should have been done afterward–filling out a form that needed to be turned in to the office. But the office was already locked. (Worship time, you know.) So resigned to do that later, we dashed for the sanctuary, hoping to get in before the doors closed.
Turning the corner, I saw her familiar face coming toward us. She was headed away from the worship center, in the direction of the office. (Ooh! Perfect opportunity, I thought.)
“Hi, guys. How are you doing?” Her greeting barely registered in my hurried mind.
My words were quick: “Hey, are you going to the office? Would you mind taking this form for me?”
She graciously agreed and accepted the paper from my extended hand with the promise to place it in the appropriate box.
And we rushed on, going our separate ways.
My husband and I quickly made our way to our seats just as the service was beginning. And, oh, the worship was glorious! I raised my voice in praise to my precious Lord and bowed my head in prayer. I silently followed along in my Bible as the pastor read the focal passage…the one about LOVE.
I was excited! Love is one of the focus themes God has me pursuing this year. I’ve been noticing it everywhere. And here I found it before me again. Expecting encouragement from the Lord and insight into His Word, I was ready to hear something new and wonderful.
But then, at some point following the reading of the Scripture passage, while listening to the pastor’s words, my toes started feeling a little uncomfortable. He was teaching how everything must be done in love. He spoke of being careful in how we treat one another. That no matter what we do, if it isn’t done out of love, it is useless and even harmful.
That uncomfortable pinched feeling in my toes quickly spread into a sick ache in the pit of my stomach. For even though the pastor was continuing to speak, I couldn’t hear his words. All I could hear was the Holy Spirit within me, telling me to think about her…and how I did not show her love.
With slow realization, my mind’s eye replayed the earlier scene.
I had seen her; that much was obvious. But I didn’t see HER. I didn’t see my friend, worthy of a warm hello and a hug. My friend, who is precious to me and deserving of kindness and appreciation.
No. I saw her as an opportunity to knock something off my to-do list and move on with my day.
Bottom line…I used her.
I didn’t love her… I used her.
In my rush to get to worship, I completely lost my way. For the only way to worship is through love.
True worship can never take place without love.
In my heart I had come face-to-face with the God of love…and I was found guilty— guilty of not loving.
The Scripture above says “If I have not love…I am nothing.” Nothing. I am nothing!
What was it God revealed to me just last week? Selfless? How could I have forgotten so soon? How can I be so blind to my indulgence to self? HOW?!
How could I have been so cold and unfeeling?! So absent of love?
Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” But I did her harm…I did not love her.
Silently, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I asked the Lord to forgive me. (One. More. Time.)
My heart was breaking for how I had treated my sweet friend. It was everything I could do to wait until the end of the service to see if I could find her…to do what I should have done the first time—give her a hug and show her love. But after the service she was not there. It wasn’t until that evening that I was finally able to confess my callous soul to her and beg her forgiveness (unfortunately, it was over the phone and not in person). She was so gracious and exemplified to me the very love that my selfish heart lacked earlier that day.
(I still owe her that hug.)
Love. That which is patient and kind and not rude or self-serving. Selfless love.
I have so much to learn, Lord. Oh, how I need Your help!
All verses from the New International Verson of the Bible, 1984.