A couple of years ago, I was reading an interview with a Christian musician who is well known for his criticism of the Church. Because of his reputation, the interviewer asked the question, “What is the biggest issue/blind spot for the church, an area where Christianity is failing to live up to its promise and purpose?”
The artist replied,“I would say it’s that the visible church seems to care more about ideas than people.”
This simple thought stuck in my brain and, over the next two years, started to work its way into the depths of my heart.
I took the liberty of summarizing the thought like this:
People > Ideas
If you have ever been to a wedding, you have probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 read aloud to remind the bride and groom, as well as the guests, of the nature of love. For the purpose of this post, I just want to quote the first three verses.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV)
Before we talk about love, let’s talk about this other stuff.
Paul, who wrote this, makes an incredible list of things that are awesome.
Speaking in angelic languages, having prophetic powers, moving mountains on faith alone, giving away all possessions, being martyred…
But none of these things are awesome — in fact they are worthless — without love
Now, what is love anyway?
Is the Apostle Paul talking about being in love? Having a significant other, getting married, living happily ever after, and all that junk?
No. This is not what Paul is talking about. While these things surely have love in them, they are not love.
Love is choosing to selflessly give devotion and compassion to someone else.
Love for love’s sake.
It’s that Greek word Agape.
As a pastor, I have often experienced (and given into) the temptation to glory in ideas.
The most eye-catching graphic design. The most cutting-edge teaching series. The most innovative, most attractional ministry events.
The best way to disciple the largest amount of poor people to multiply the fastest growing church to change the world… the most.
Before I know it, I’m that toy monkey with those demonic looking eyes clanging two orchestral cymbals together (pictured).
And there are no people around.
And no love.
But a lot of ideas.
And I think this is because when our goal is to have great ideas, our values shift and we hope to one day be as brilliant as Steve Jobs.
But when our goal is to love people, our hope is that we might someday love like Jesus.