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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Have Not Love

I occasionally get asked (by churches) to help a pastor or other ministry leader in distress. Not long ago, one of the inquiries concerned conflict within the church. It seems that most of the people in the church found it difficult to relate to one certain leader.

I asked about this leader and was told of his strength and virtue. He had an impressive theology degree from so-and-so seminary; he is a certified genius - very brilliant. When I asked someone to tell me his strengths, I was told that he is a great thinker, very wise, and always able to see a perspective that most people miss. These of course are great qualities to have in anyone, regardless of the extent of their education or other credentials.

As I interviewed the key players in this scenario, I was impressed with the fact that they were, on the whole, wonderful people. But as I interviewed the one everyone had trouble with (let's call him "Dean"), I noticed something different. You see, with everyone else that I talked to, I felt loved. The love for Christ and for other people just seemed to ooze out of them. But when I talked to Dean - not so much.

Now I'm not the brightest bulb in the string, and I certainly don't have impressive religious credentials. But I do have a Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide me. So I began to pray about the situation. I asked, "God, will you show me what you see in these circumstances?" When He answered that prayer, I was amazed. God took me directly to 1 Corinthians 13, where the Apostle Paul explains about love.

If I speak in the tongues of man (several languages) ... but have not love, I am only (making noise). 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 ... but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, ... it is not proud. It is not rude ... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; ... where there is knowledge, it will pass away. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

So there it was. People had described our highly credentialed genius in terms that the Apostle Paul described. Dean was faithful, knowledgeable, a good speaker. He lived a modest lifestyle and didn't seem to be greedy. To be sure, Dean was a "good man" by most every measure known to mankind. (I'm sure his parents must be quite proud of him and his accomplishments in life.)

But here's the thing, Dean had not love. So his degrees? Worthless. His genius? Ineffective at best. His knowledge? Failing. Simply put, all of the qualities that our friend here possessed were virtually cancelled in his relationships because he had not love.

You see, that was no evidence that Dean's heart had never been broken (that we know of) for the Lord. On the other hand, there was strong evidence that he was, for example, prideful as a result of his impressive credentials. He also was short-tempered, was known to "keep score" (keep record of wrongs) and excelled at taking care of himself.

But Dean wasn't known for making sacrifices for others, making apologies when he was wrong, or being forgiving when others were wrong. When asked if they loved Dean - most people confessed that they found it challenging to love him. Despite his worldly attributes, he didn't seem very lovable. When asked if they thought Dean loved them - virtually every single person said no. Some expressed doubt that he could love anyone else. One even reasoned that Dean "might be too smart" to love others!

So here's the thing. Churches often pick their leaders based on credentials like education or years of experience. But it seems that, among other things, God has told us through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 that those worldly credentials aren't going to be worth much if they're not accompanied by love.

For you see, if I had all these things ... but had not love, I would only be - less than God wants me to be.

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