If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate…
I remember the first time I read Eugene Peterson’s unique paraphrase of 1 Corinthians chapter 13. My heart refused to move beyond the first verse. There was something about the phrase, creaking of a rusty gate, that moved my senses in an uncomfortable, but powerful way.
The apostle Paul used the words, resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, but the effect is the same. If we don’t love well, we’re nothing but a lot of noise. Obnoxious noise, at that. Or, to take it a bit further, because of the initial intensity of the sounds, a creaking rusty gate, sounding gong, or clanging cymbal all seize our attention for a moment, but then we quickly turn away, disillusioned and disappointed.
There is no hope-filled takeaway—nothing of lasting value. Instead of warmth in our hearts, we’re left with a dreadful ringing in our ears.
February is when the world pauses to celebrate love. A parade of pink candy hearts, sweet-smelling roses, and oh-my-word chocolates are constant reminders of the occasion. Greeting card companies help us express our “deepest emotions” to those we adore.
But just in case Valentine’s Day came and went and you are feeling a bit left out or unnoticed, or you think you missed an opportunity to reach out to someone and to love well, there is amazing news on both accounts.
True love, God’s love, is forever, ongoing, and unchanging. Our Creator doesn’t set aside a few days a year to adore us. He cherishes us every day, in all of our moments. And He has provided the perfect road map for how to love others, for how to love well.
Soak in the beauty of the remainder of 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message:
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Upon reading this precious chapter, the words become a mirror reminding me of the countless times I’ve failed at love. I don’t always look for the best. Sometimes I give up. I don’t put others first. Too often, I’m a selfish mess.
This is when the most amazing aspect of God’s love overwhelms and sends me to my knees. 1 John 1:9 (NIV) reads, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. And Psalm 86:5 (NIV) says, You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Is there anything more loving and profound than forgiveness?
God’s love for us is forgiving and good. He is abounding—overflowing—with the deepest, purest, most unselfish love we can (or honestly, can’t) fathom.
This love—from the One Who created us—is the only love that will fill the deepest longings of our hearts. And the only love that will enable us to love others well.
So let’s extend our loving—beyond February, beyond ourselves—and love with the extravagance of the One Who is the very definition of Love.
Because, um … who wants to sound like the creaking of a rusty gate?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 (NIV)
We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:19 (NIV)