Part three of our journey through 1 Corinthians 13.
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’
1 Corinthians 13:1
My TV guilty pleasure is the TLC classic, ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’ In each episode, a bride arrives at a fancy salon to choose her dream wedding dress. Depending which show you’re watching the bride could be in New York, Atlanta, Essex, Lancashire, Las Vegas, Ireland, the list goes on and on as this thing is global! Regardless of the location, the scenario is always the same.
The bride arrives with her entourage and is asked about her fiancé. She then usually shares how they are perfect for each other as they are so different and complement each other !!! (That’s a whole other blog right there.) She then starts trying on dresses and the seasoned viewer scans the entourage for ‘the one’.
‘The one’, you ask?
Yep, the one who will have their own camera moment to say:
‘I’m brutally honest! I say what I think. If she looks a state then I’ll be the one to tell her.’
The news that a particular dress makes the bride’s backside look huge is shared under the guise of honesty and concern, but the real motivation is to grab air time and replace the bride as the centre of attention. Pretty much every time, this ends with the bride in tears and Gok Wan having to have a word with the bolshy maid of honour about the concept of ‘constructive feedback’.
The Corinthian church had got themselves into a similar mess. As we discovered in the Bible Project Clip, the worship gatherings were chaotic. Some would speak in tongues with no one to translate what they were saying; others would stand to share a word from the Lord while being heckled by another church member who wanted to speak. They felt justified in their actions and gave little thought to whether their words were breaking down the church or building it up. Paul was concerned that anyone new to the worship gathering would be left confused and miss the real reason they were there, to hear about Jesus Christ. He was calling out those in the Corinthian church who liked the sound of their own voices and enjoyed speaking into situations so that others could hear their opinion. Just like the bolshy maid of honour their words clanged through the room, drawing their attention away from the main focus of the gathering.
Whether we are speaking 'in the tongues of men or of angels', and there is much debate about what that phrase means, Paul is clear that words have power. Without love, any words of truth, eloquent sermons or perfectly (or imperfectly) constructed blogs are meaningless.
Directed by the right conductor, a clanging cymbal can form part of the crescendo of a moving orchestral piece but its appearance in the middle of delicate flute solo would destroy the moment. We may feel compelled to speak into a situation within our church setting, but let’s make sure it's directed by God and our motivation to reflect his love…anything else is meaningless.