(I Corinthians 13:4 – If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.)
Of all the musical instruments that exist, I think cymbals are perhaps the most offensive to the ear. Considering the above-referenced scripture, I think the Apostle Paul might agree with me. I don’t think anyone much likes a clanging cymbal. When it comes to speaking the truth of God’s word without God’s love, we can often come across as clanging cymbals in the ears of others. Jason R. Henderson says, “God’s word without God’s light can be a very dangerous thing.” He’s right about that, but I believe God’s word without God’s love can be as well. Speaking God’s word without God’s love creates the danger of turning people away from Him rather than to Him. No matter what good we do, no matter what truth we speak, if we “have not love, it profits us nothing.” In 1 Peter 1:22, we are encouraged to, “love one another deeply, from the heart.” Every truth and every instruction in God’s word must be spoken in love, otherwise we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal that will only cause others to cover their ears and turn away.
Proverbs 17:5 cautions, “He that is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished.” I grew up with five siblings. As you can imagine, one or the other of us was always getting into some type of trouble and the ones who were not, were always quick to warn the ones who were. I remember catching one of my siblings smoking one day and saying, “Boy are you going to be in big trouble when mom finds out!” Then, in almost anxious anticipation of the punishment to come, I couldn’t wait until mom found out. I guess you could say I was “glad at the calamities” that were about to befall them. I loved my siblings but I took pleasure in warning them of the consequences of their actions, without having any genuine concern for the consequences of their actions. Those of you who grew up with siblings can probably relate. I think sometimes we can have the same heart toward warning our brothers and sisters in Christ of wrong behavior. We often find more pleasure in warning them of their actions than we do grieving the outcome of their actions. More often than not, like a clanging cymbal, my warnings to my siblings profited nothing but to cause them to turn their ears away from me. Rebuke without love will always yield the same results, because rebuke without love often comes across a lot like judgment, and judgment only serves to turn people away. Nobody likes to be at the end of a pointing finger!
We tend to want to root out evil in others while ignoring it in ourselves. Jesus warned us of this, saying, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” If love is not at the heart of our efforts to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, our efforts will be in vain. Until we see that a lack of love is a plank in our own eye, we won’t be able to help anyone with the speck we see in theirs, even if what we say is truth. We need to remember that when we fail to love in speaking the truth, we are breaking the greatest law of all. Jesus said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another.” (John 13:34).
In Psalm 40:10, the psalmist cries out, “I do not conceal your love and truth.” Love and truth go together. We are not to conceal God’s love when speaking the truth of God’s word, but at the same time we are not to conceal God’s truth while walking in love. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” The knowledge of God’s love is not made perfect in us through fear. That is why “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” If we only warn people of sin out of the fear of God, without telling them of the love of God, then all we have succeeded in doing is creating fear having to do with punishment; kind of like I did with my sibling. When I warned my sibling that they were going to be in big trouble for their misbehavior, I spoke the truth but I didn’t speak it in love. Joyce Meyers tells the story of she and an evangelist friend meeting a young sales girl while out shopping one day. The girl asked what brought them to town and they explained that they were Christians and were in town for a conference. The girl excitedly replied, “Oh, I’m a spiritual person too!” During the ongoing conversation, the girl proceeded to use some “colorful” language but laughed it off saying, “I think even God curses sometimes!” To which Joyce indignantly corrected, “No, God does not curse!” Her friend, however, gently affirmed, “No, God does not curse, but he still loves those who do.” Truth and love worked together in perfect harmony that day.
I love going to live music venues, but nothing is more aggravating to me at a live music venue than not being able to hear the words to a song because the music is too loud. I don’t know about others, but when the music is too loud, I usually end up with my fingers in my ears, just waiting for it to be over. I appreciate the skill of talented musicians, but their skill is lost on me when they are so loud that they drown out the words of the song. It takes very skilled musicians to expertly adjust the volume of their instruments so as not to drown out the vocals. A good musician knows that the instruments are supposed to compliment the vocals, not drown them out. When people are able to hear the words of the song, it makes the instruments much more pleasant to hear. Just like truth and love, the one compliments the other; both working together to achieve the desired outcome. Like a musician, we might be very skilled at the instrument of God’s word, but our skill will only cause people to put their fingers in their ears if we drown out the voice of God’s love. No one ever turns their ears away from the melody of love. It is always a sweet, sweet sound in the ears. To quote the words of Sir Paul McCartney, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no.” Silly Love Songs was written by Paul and Linda McCartney as a rebuttal to music critics, as well as former Beatle friend John Lennon, accusing Paul of predominantly writing “silly love songs” and “sentimental slush.” It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies, so I guess Paul proved his point. People never grow tired of love songs, oh no, but they do grow tired of clanging cymbals.
What right have I to judge he who does not stand
If I be not willing to offer him my hand
What right have I to judge he who in blindness gropes
If I not lead his way and guide him to his hopes
What right have I to judge another in his walk
If I’ve nought to offer him but sanctimonious talk
What right have I to judge if I’ve not shown I care
And born my brother’s burden upon my knees in prayer
What right have I to speak empty words that only judge
and like a clanging cymbal drown out the voice of love
What right have I to judge, indeed have I none
For to stand or fall is given but to one
(Romans 14:4 – Who art thou that judges another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yeah, he shall be holden up; for God is able to make him stand.).