In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “If I speak of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
It is a little surprising to hear Paul talk about clanging cymbals like this because when it is time to hand out instruments in Middle School Band, the line for the cymbals is twice as long as any other. We all want to be the loudest noise in the room!
Later on in life, though, when the grandparents give our children a drum set, and the main room in the house is the only one big enough for it, we realize what Paul was trying to say. Love is not always the loudest noise in the room.
Love does not seek attention. It does not dominate a situation. It never overpowers.
As Paul writes, “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” I Corinthians 13:7-8
We do not define love; love defines us. As much as we might prefer, love is more honest, humble and trusting than it is agreeable, certain or confident. Love is simply a lived commitment to what never ends.
God’s love is endless, so our mistakes will not last forever, but forgiveness will. Our brokenness will come to an end, but compassion will not. Our hope may falter, but God’s faithfulness does not.
When we see the love that never ends in somebody else, it can inspire us, but it can also confuse us. It can inspire us because we catch a glimpse of God’s love in everyday life, but it can also confuse us because it always widens the circle of our lives.
Whenever the circle widens, we might feel as if there is less love to go around because it is divided up between more needs. The secret of the love of God, though, is that whenever the circle widens, God’s love grows as well because the love of God is endless.
We discover that the love of God for me becomes the love of God for us and the community we can share.
Throughout his life, Jesus widens the circle, sharing the love of God with others. Jesus reached out to the man named Legion, who was forced to live on the margins, and showed him compassion. Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, who was a tax collector hated by many, and visited his house for a meal. Jesus even turned to the criminal on the cross next to him and offered forgiveness.
Whenever the circle widens, we discover the gift of God’s love.
To be honest, as beautiful as God’s love sounds, when it stretches us to widen the circle of our lives, it is rather difficult work, but there is a gift.
When we put our arms around someone else with the love of God, in that very moment, we feel the arms of God’s love around us.
It is the mysterious, powerful, life-giving, life-saving love that defines who we are, holding us close and bringing hope to this world.
Dr. Tripp Martin has been the pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church since 2013. Prior to living in Auburn, he served churches in Georgia and Mississippi.