But Have Not Love
I launched out like a sailor of the wind, a pneumanaut, not knowing where the thermals might set me down. No one was worried about my sudden flight. But why should they? I had decent stock. Came from a good, Christian family. I got along with most people. I was the youngest of four boys, and my three older brothers seemed to be sailing smoothly. There was no reason to suspect that I would be any different.
However, it would be different with me. The winds went in new directions. The gusts were scary at first, but I soon learned how to use them to my advantage. For a while I could make them take me anywhere I wanted to go.
Things started with what might have looked like ordinary adolescent explorations. But my response to each new discovery was anything but ordinary. I had a need to push everything as far as I could take it. Before long I became an expert in one thing—having a good time. I would have matched my ability to push hard for the sake of having a good time against anyone. I was gifted at partying.
I am not going to lie and tell you that I have nothing but regrets from those years of my life. The truth is that I had lots of fun. And as strange as it may sound, I really was good at what I did. The problem is the same problem that arises with any gift. It is the problem that arises when you do something well, but have not love. When you are an expert at having a good time, but have not love, you are nothing but a self-serving narcissist.
I wish I could tell you that I woke up one day and said to myself, “You think you’re kind of a big deal, but you’re really just kind of a jerk.” There was not enough love in my soul to have that kind of epiphany. What did finally slow me down a little bit was the realization that I should have been dead at least half-a-dozen times. Even that was rooted in my own need for self-preservation.
However, slowing down a little bit eventually helped me see that all of my hard living was really covering up something else that was much deeper. I had no hope. The only thing that I had truly hoped for in several years was to have a good time. I was genuinely surprised at my newfound hopelessness. I had worked hard at being anything but hopeless. After all, it is impossible to be hopeless and have a good time. So, I had managed to push my hopelessness down real deep. As I began the process of excavating my hopelessness I discovered that what lied beneath it was even more troubling. I was not just a soul that had no hope. I was a soul that had not love.
When I met Christ in January of 1997 I was overwhelmed to suddenly possess those two things that had been missing in my life. Some people refer to their new birth as “coming to faith.” I guess I could say it that way, but that is not how it felt. For me, I came to hope and love.
I cannot imagine that I would ever return to the state that I was in before 1997. That is not a concern of mine. However, what is a concern of mine is the possibility that I would now do good things, but do them and have not love. According to the Apostle Paul, love is the one critical ingredient. Think about it this way. The bible gives us a clear picture that one day each of us will stand before God and He will judge our lives and award us according to what we have done (Rom 2:6; Matt 16:27). There will be some who had an entire life of good works that amount to nothing because they were missing love. Consider your greatest heroes of the faith. Put in as many of them as you want, from Job to Mother Teresa to your faithful, praying Grandma, and add them all up. Now subtract love and what is left? According to Scripture, nothing.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor 13:1-3
The spiritual equation is this: Every Good Thing – Love = Nothing
If you have authority, but have not love, you are nothing but a tyrant. If you have anointing, but have not love, you are nothing but a manipulator. If you have discernment, but have not love, you are nothing but a cynic. Take any gift that you have, and even if it mesmerizes people everywhere, without love it is completely worthless in the sight of God. Any good thing without love loses all of its value. That is why the judgment against the church at Ephesus is so alarming, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4).
If you are discouraged because you are not highly valued in the eyes of men, but you know that God has put His love in your heart, do not dwell on it any longer. You have the one thing that He is looking for in your life. However, if you are suddenly realizing that you are doing a lot of good things, but have not love, do whatever you have to do get it back. Love is not just the only thing in the universe that never fails (1 Cor 13:8), it is the one thing that when missing will turn the best thing into nothing.
Amen! Our greatest gift is also our greatest weakness when out of balance. I’m glad you found love–the real thing, not the world’s counterfeit!
Thanks, Angela. Me too!
Loved the honesty in revealing your “old self”. It’s amazing what surrender to Jesus and TRUE LOVE can do for us. After all, that is then our gift to the world, from Him, for them…I’m going to repost your post on my blog. I know of many people who could benefit from this. Thanks for sharing and writing it out. I’m blessed by yours and your wife’s blogs.
Thanks so much, Grace. And yes, it is amazing!
The interesting thing is you can have people in the church who look like “good Christians,” know lots about the Bible, give to the poor, do mission work and all that, but if they don’t have love, what are they?
There’s a difference between being religious, even being a gifted Pastor or Bible scholar, and having love. You can be a very simple person (unabashed link to my blog) with almost no Bible knowledge, but have a great zeal for loving God and other people and be “right with God.”
I’m not worried about people outside of Christianity who “don’t have love” because I don’t expect them to. Ironically, many atheists and agnostics as well as people in other religions demonstrate more love for their fellow human being than many Christians. I worry when people in the church have no love. They…we should know better or at least “do” better.
Absolutely, James. No excuse for a Christian without love!
Really enjoyed this. I’m glad you shared it, and I’m glad God brought you back from that lifestyle and that things are much better for you now. This is encouraging!
Powerful testimony! Finding hope and love, its awesome that you expressed your coming to faith that way, I thinks its ever better that you know of the God’s love in a tangible way. Blessings to you brother.
Thanks so much, Thomas. Blessing to you too!
I used a portion of your blog post to teach my class this morning on the subject of love. I especially loved you equation. I think they got it
Ha! Awesome, Angela!
“Every Good Thing – Love = Nothing”
The equation that’s more important to understand than E=MC2. [squared; sorry, no superscript]
Written with candor and understanding.