Working Hard and Hardly Loving

‘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

Why is it that Scripture seems to harshly rebuke those who do not love others, regardless of their work for God?

I think, in part, because we so often put work before love, when love is actually the means by which work is done. Think on these next few passages as they relate to the requirement that love and works be joined at the hip.

After declaring a new commandment to love each other, Jesus goes on to state that loving each other is the sign of our being his disciple. (John 13:35) In a sense, loving others is the mark denoting that we are Christ's.

John tells us that if we say we love God but don’t love others, we are lying. (1 John 4:19-21)  Let that sink in. If you are not growing out of your negative bias towards others, then you lie about your love of God.

We are called to love even to the point of loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). How does this sit with your political leanings? Do you love or curse those that think or act differently than you? Do you choose to pray for those that threaten you, or do you choose to encourage threatening them?

God seems to disregard your work if it is not connected to channeling the love you received from Him. It doesn’t matter how much you give to your church or denomination, how many times you’ve taught Sunday School, how often you go on mission trips or serve on a church committee, if you have hate or have contempt for anyone or any people group, then your works are considered dead by God. Even more, you lie about loving God when you hate your neighbor or neglect to love them.

I’ve been married nearly 15 years. Imagine that if in that period I had consistently done great things for my wife, provided for her, protected her, and given her exactly what she asked for – but, what if I had never let her kiss me, never received a gift or a word from her, never allowed her into my broken heart or into my dreams and desires? If marriage is as much about receiving as it is giving, how much more so our relationship with God? If all I did for my wife was out of fear of losing her, would she (or I) ever feel truly loved? God does not want you to serve him diligently out of fear (1 John 4:18), but instead He wants you to receive His love and then let it spill out of you onto others (1 John 4:11,19).

If your work for God is not directly related to the love you daily receive from Him, then it is seriously flawed and will eventually run dry. After all, what stream can contribute to a lake if it is not fed by the rain. Working for God, apart from being fed by the love of God, is like canoeing upstream in a dry river bed.

I want to encourage you to start receiving from God before you give to God.