Without Love I am Nothing
What should Christian manhood look like? The description of the ideal Christian man will vary depending on which part of the church you ask. Manhood is seen differently depending upon the social lens looked through. The perfect man can be portrayed as anything from woke to hipster to a lumberjack. This is not a bad thing.
God made all people reflect aspects of Himself. Matthew, the former tax collector, and Peter, the fisherman, most likely did not look the same. We play different roles in the Body of Christ and that often means being distinct from one another. What should never change depending on the culture, however, is love. Whether you are playing in a drum circle or debating coffee blends, manhood in the church should always include loving well like Jesus. Christian masculinity without love is pointless. It is worse than nothing as it negatively affects the world.
Have you ever had someone bark orders at you? Have you ever had someone talk at you? They don’t treat you as a person, but a means to their end. They are not speaking to you but at you. It is evident that the person that is not actually involving you in the exchange. They are expressing their love of and preoccupation with themselves all over you. It is like a verbal vomiting attack.
They have no interest in any response from you or your feeling about what they are saying. They want to get out what they want to say. They want a job done and have no concern for your feelings on the subject. This is the style coach or boss who thinks it is better to be feared than anything else. It is the person you avoid in social situations.
How does that make you feel? Terrible, right?
It is hard to have an interest in the subject that the person is talking at you about. You want to pull the ripcord and get out of there as quickly as you can. Love is just about the last emotion that comes to mind when dealing with them.
A Clanging Gong
Have you ever heard a really unpleasant noise? Like someone scratches their nails on a chalkboard or the sound of a dentist’s drill as she drills a tooth? It is a terrible and annoying experience. It affects you down to your bones. It makes your skin crawl. The louder it gets the worse it is. This is the picture of people without love. Christians are no exception.
When you seek to do all that Jesus commands us in the Bible but forget to include love in the mix, you miss the point entirely. The works become expressions of selfishness rather than service. They come off as really unpleasant to those around. They make people recoil rather than attract people to Jesus.
Yikes, it sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
Yet, this is the idea that Paul is getting at in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Take a look at how Paul begins 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter:
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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Christian life without love is nothing and is a really annoying nothing! C’mon, say what you really mean Paul! He compares loveless Christianity in all its forms to two really annoying discordant sounds of his day, noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. The idea is something that makes a ton of noise and is jarring and irritating. Think of perhaps a fire engine’s siren, though less rhythmic.
If the Apostle Paul was writing today, he might have written if you don’t have love it is like nails on the chalkboard. It is a sound that is clear and not easily misunderstood. One that is so wrong that no matter how loud you make it doesn’t get any better. It is just louder bad noise.
Clanging Gongs in Corinth
Paul was writing to Christians who lost sight of love in the following of Jesus. Much like a leader bossing you around or a person talking at you, they made everything about them and their expressions of self. They were supposed to be following Jesus but in fact, their church was about their pride. Their faith was self-centered and self-serving. The church became a contest to see who could speak the loudest or in the best tongue.
Since they made life all about them rather than Jesus, it was impossible for them to demonstrate true Jesus powered love for others. Loving yourself that much precludes loving others with any authenticity. You just care too much about taking care of yourself to care much for others. The flesh is a greedy beast to feed.
Because the Corinthians were so prideful and self-focused in their walks with Jesus, their use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was worthless. Paul says it is nothing to prophesy or speak in tongues if you don’t have love. Even worse, their actions were like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. They were creating an unmistakable, discordant, and annoying impression for everyone around them.
Paul goes so far as to say that it would have been better if they did not meet as a church for all the damage they were doing. For lack of love, they were changing the beauty of God’s own gifts given through His will through His Spirit into something worthless and off-putting.
What was meant to be the Body of Christ moving perfectly together to testify to God’s glory was an uncoordinated mess. Love for the Lord and love for each other is what is supposed to keep the Body in harmony. Since it was nowhere to be found, the Corinthian church was stumbling around like a newborn colt. They were doing a lot but no one would call it beautiful.
We may be shocked by this idea but look around at some portions of the church today. You don’t have to go far on the internet to see pastors preaching with such anger and hatred, what comes across is ugly and lacking in power. There are others who are doctrinally sound but so intellectually focused that the Gospel that they preach is cold, aloof and forbidding. They have the truth of the Bible but without the love of God, it presents a confusing picture. They have lost sight of God’s love so they have completely lost the message brought to us by Jesus Himself. For God so loved the world He sent His Son.
God is love. Jesus is God and is also therefore love. Jesus was sent into this world as a man because God so loved the world. Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbors. Jesus said that the world would know us as disciples by our love. Love is so essential to who God is and to what we are as Christians that Paul makes his strong statement. Without love, Christianity is nothing. A man seeking to follow Jesus cannot lose sight of love and do it successfully. God is love. A man’s life without love is a life without God prominently in it.
God does not tell us what the style of manhood looks like in the modern world. He does not require primal screams, protests or beard oil. He does make love indispensable. If you have gotten far down a path that looks like a Christian man but is cold and unloving, turns around. If you trying to meet an arch type in your church circle, but are doing it in emptiness, stop. If you are consumed with the idea of service or justice but you have no Jesus inspired love behind it…just stop. It profits nothing and creates a jarring discordant sound. It should be the love of Jesus compelling you and the love of the Holy Spirit coming through you. This is the clear example of Christian manhood to strive after.
No matter what manhood looks like in your culture, if you don’t include love there is something very wrong. It is nothing. Everyone wants to be something in the Body of Christ, right? So love and love greatly!
Tom Neary is loving life as an on fire follower of Jesus. Helping others see to the glory of Jesus and to live abundantly in Him is his mission. He is a Christian, husband, father, lawyer and a regular guy called to teach God’s Word simply. To check out more of what Tom is doing visit pastorunlikely.com and calvarycatonsville.com. Tom has also just launched a podcast “Come Let Us Disciple” focused on informal discipleship.