BUT HAVE NOT LOVE
Paul’s “Hymn of Love” (First Corinthians 13) is one of the best-known sections of Scripture. In all my years of ministry there have been few weddings in which I have not referred to this great love reflection. When thoughts and reflections are being connected with love, none can do better than to read and spend some time with this “Hymn of Love”.
“But have not love” is an attention getting phrase that occurs three times in the first three verses of the hymn. “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels — but have not love.”
“If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains — but have not love.”
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned — but have not love.” Paul closes his last “but have not love” with the dogmatic word, “I gain nothing.” He makes his point clearly; nothing is of any use if love is missing. Bereft of love, we become less than we are as humans.
After my sermon, in a conference where I was preaching, people were in a line greeting me. I saw a woman “hanging back.” I knew she wanted a bit more time than the usual greeting and thank you. I was so moved by her affirmation and self-introduction that I spontaneously hugged her. You would have thought I had given a glass of water to a person dying of thirst, or a $1,000 to a penniless beggar. Her face was aglow. “Thank you,” she exclaimed, and added, “Nobody hugs me anymore.”
She told me more: the loss of her husband 10 years before, her children scattered and she was now living alone. She doesn’t get any hugs.
If we know we are loved — and hugging helps us to know — we can bear anything. But if we have not love, we become less than human.
It is easy to grow careless of the ones we are supposed to love. We become thoughtless of the little things that keep love alive. So we don’t hug as much as we should. We don’t speak kind and loving words to our spouses. We take each other for granted, and to take another for granted is to make them less than human.
Words and actions can wound us, but so can no words and no action. Indifference, disregard, neglect — these are the painful bullets that penetrate our hearts and bring emotional death. These deaths are silent. We don’t see them because we are not looking — we’re not listening. The ears and eyes of our hearts are closed to those around us — sometimes even to those we love.
Of all that we must be intentional about, love is paramount.