There are only two choices in the way we live out our lives before the face of God and others: we either add or subtract to those around us.
So . . . which word best describes the way you are living your life right now? Are you adding to others? Or subtracting?
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. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
Imagine a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal in an orchestra concert. Would they add to or subtract from the melody of the music? That would depend on the motivation of the person doing the playing. If he or she is just banging away . . . it would make an unpleasant noise!
I think that’s Paul’s point here in the chapter of Scripture known as “The Love Chapter” is that without love, we subtract from everything we are involved in. Like a resounding gong toning at the wrong time or a cymbal crashing and drowning out the melody, when we act without love in our hearts, we are simply making noise; we are subtracting from the lives of those we meet. But when our lives are marked by the love of Christ, we go from subtracting to adding value to the lives of others.
Paul concluded 1 Corinthians 13 with these words: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love is the key to making a difference in life. Because God is love (1 John 4:16), when we love others, we are sharing a portion of our Savior and contributing to their lives in immeasurable ways. Love lifts others. Love leads others. Love gets our lives in tune with the truths of the Gospel and enables us to go from being consumers to contributors.
Jesus loved us so much that He died for us yet while we were still sinners . . . when we were still His enemies! (See Romans 5:8-10.) Jesus didn’t wait for us to get cleaned up. He didn’t wait for us to get things right—to “get our act together.” He loved us when we were obstinate and unlovely.
Our Lord’s amazing, unselfish love for us is the model of how we are to love for others. We can’t regulate our love for people based on how we view them. We are simply to love others, all others, because He first loved us. At this level of living, we make the God attractive to a watching world; we add to life rather than subtract from it.
So . . . have you been adding or subtracting lately? Where in your life have you been a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal? Where have you destroyed the music in the lives of others . . . and when have you made it sweeter? To be sure, life is a mixture of both on this side of the grave. Because we are still sinners in need of daily saving, we will both add and subtract.
Know this: even when we truly desire to add to others, we are also subtracting a bit because our love is always stained by our sin-filled, self-absorbed hearts. But that truth should not keep us from loving! It should inspire us to keep loving more and more, trusting Jesus to sanctify and purify our love for others . . . even those we consider unlovable.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!