The aim for any of us, especially those of us who are religious professionals, should be love. A paraphrase of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 for the world in which I live and the life I am meant to live reads as follows …
If I preach with great style, technique and passion, but do not have love, I have become a rattling can or honking horn. If I have knowledge of all methods and have the skill to do them all with great effect, but do not have love, I have lost my way. And if I am able to start hundreds of churches, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love does not rush by people; love does not become jealous of the success of a colleague. Love does not brag about deeds or speak in a superior tone, does not act haughty or seek its own way, is not easily offended, keep a record of offenses or failures, nor is it OK with evil stuff and lies but is thrilled with justice and truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are methods, and strategies, they will be done away with; if there are five and ten-year plans, they will one day come to an end; if there are teachers and missiologists, they will be unemployed.
For we really know only a fraction of what is going on around us, but when Jesus’ reign is established, our temporal methods and strategies will pale in comparison to what he is doing. When I was a young religious professional, I spoke like a minister, thought like a missionary, reasoned like a theologian; when I started loving, I moved beyond such speaking, thinking and reasoning.
For now we see in part what God is doing, but one day we will see everything exactly as it is. But for the time, all we have are faith, hope and love. Of these, love rules.
If love is the aim, then preaching, strategizing, and teaching should move me closer to people, not increase my distance from them. These activities should add dignity and humanity to the person in front of me, not objectify them. And yet, the truth is – for love to rule these activities, I must be radically seized by the God who is love.