My Life as a Clanging Cymbal

Years ago, I learned of a particular struggle in the life of a friend. Her confession was heartfelt and I could see that the problem caused her great pain.
Outwardly, I was concerned.

Outwardly, I offered Biblical counsel, comfort, and care. Later though, alone with God, He showed me the reality of my heart.

Inwardly, my friend’s struggle made me feel better about my own life. Inwardly, I had to admit to God that part of me rejoiced in her failings. After all, now I had proof that she wasn’t better than I am. Now in my inner being, I could comfort myself with her imperfections.

Pretty ugly, right?

Some would say to me “That’s only natural. We all feel like that at times.” I’m tempted to say that to myself.

The truth is though, that while it is natural for someone with a sin nature to feel this way, it’s unnecessary and offensive to God to remain in that condition. These are the feelings of a loveless heart. My mean-spirited self-consolation only revealed that I love myself more than I love my friend.

That’s not right.

So you see, I have spent many hours of life as a clanging cymbal, an off-beat annoyance in God’s orchestra, a noise interfering with the otherwise harmonic flow of His grand composition. When I act this way, all of heaven stops and stares at the one player who is out of sync.

It is a condition that must be corrected.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3

God does not give half credit on his tests. If I answer a test by speaking in tongues but don’t have love, He hears nothing but a clanging cymbal.

If I prophesy and have amazing faith but do not have love then I am NOTHING. Not someone who is almost there. Not “close enough.” Not better than some other people. NOTHING.

If I give my possessions and my body to serve others but do not love, I gain NOTHING. Not “at least I’m doing the right thing.” Nothing.

Look the word “nothing” up in the Greek and you’ll find it’s a fairly all-encompassing, uncompromising word. It means “nothing.”

So, while I may have exhibited kindness, compassion, and wisdom as I counseled my friend, in God’s reality, I was nothing and He rewarded me with nothing because I acted without love.

When those closest to me fail, I don’t rejoice. I agonize. I weep. I struggle, myself, with pain and anguish. As I counsel, correct, or comfort them, I feel no sense of victory. Because I love them.

Love removes all selfish responses to their situations. Love refuses even to let me consider myself in the midst of caring for them. Love makes me selfless.

Because it’s not something I can conjure up on my own. Because on my own, loving all others is an impossibility. Because it is a ludicrously unnatural act to imagine one human could love all others selflessly. Because of this, I am learning to ask God to fill me with His love for others. All others.

With God all things are possible. And God is love so He is the source to which I can go to replenish my diminished supply.

There are people I naturally love but there are multitudes of others that I don’t even like, never mind find myself willing to care about on a deeper level.

If I’m honest, really honest, I have to admit there are people in whose suffering I might even rejoice. There are some that I feel deserve to fail, deserve to suffer, deserve to be put down a few notches.

But that is not God’s way of seeing or operating. He tells me to love so completely that I am even to love my enemies. How will I do that when I can barely manage to love my family and friends with a love that has any real substance?

This is God’s description of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-6

My hope comes from knowing that this is the love offered to me through Jesus Christ. He will hope for me. He will persevere with me. He will not give up on me as I learn to love the way He loves.

So, today, I confess to my lack of love for others. It’s not an excusable shortcoming. It’s a sin that makes me nothing.

The hope for me is the same hope you may have as well. His love is boundless and free and He can make me like Christ in that I can love others selflessly. I am not doomed to clang forever. I can seek Him and find Him and tune my heart to sing His grace, His mercy, and His love forever.

Do you wrestle with loving others? What do you do about it?

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1 Comment

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  1. Cathy Baker says:

    Great post, Lori. I will be thinking and especially praying about this for awhile. When I come across those whom are a bit more difficult to love (in my opinion) I pray that the Lord would show me how to love that person as He loves them. I need to see them through the Spirit’s lens instead of the all too readily available fleshly inspired ones. Are those clanging cymbals I hear in the background? Thanks for the wake up call…