If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love …
—1 Corinthians 13:1
Imagine a person able to speak every language on earth. Imagine what an effective engineer or salesperson or physician that person could be. The moment they landed at an airport, they could speak to anyone. They would be invaluable at a United Nations meeting or an international trade conference.
The apostle Paul imagines such a person, and then ups the ante: this person could also speak the languages of angels. We might suppose that a person who could communicate with angels might also be a brilliant orator, able to hold a crowd spellbound. Paul imagines such a person but says that if they lacked love, they would be “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Suppose on Christmas a dearly loved relative gave your eight-year-old twins a gong and a pair of cymbals. You might survive Christmas day. Christmas cheer covers a multitude of bad gifts. But if your twins paraded into your bedroom the next morning banging the gong and crashing the cymbals, those gifts would strain your nervous system to the breaking point. All they would mean to you was a loud noise to be rid of.
That’s what the Bible says about remarkable gifts of language and eloquence and teaching—if separated from love, they are only noise.
Lord, you give us the gift of words. And language. And communication. Let us speak and communicate only in love. In the name of our loving Savior, Amen.
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