In the name of the Father and of the +Son and f the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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 Cor. 13:1-3)
Truthful speech, knowledge or clear sight, and sacrifice. This triad is the cornerstone of successful living. I am not talking about successful living as a Christian, but successful living for all people. To have your eyes open so that you see and know what’s going on, to speak truly about what is happening, so that your words may produce good results, rather than violence or chaos. And then to sacrifice of yourself in order to work for that good to happen. These things are universal. So that truthful speech, based on clear sight or knowledge, and sacrifice. These things lead to healthy individuals and healthy, functioning societies.
However, St. Paul tells us that these three things mean nothing if they are not tempered by and flowing from love. (1 Cor. 13:1-3) If I speak with the languages or earth or even of heaven, but it isn’t spoken in love, it will not produce what you wish, but only chaos. For Paul says, “I am a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal,” by which He’s referring to those instruments which call an army to battle. My speech can be powerful speech, even truthful speech. But if it is not loving speech—which means truthful speech with the desire to accomplish good and establish truth, not in desire to hurt—it creates chaos, mayhem, warfare. For truthful speech from a desire to hurt is wrath not love. People justify saying cruel things because they are true. But just because something is true does not mean you need to say it. That’s what the eighth commandment is about: you shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. It’s not about not lying. That’s what I thought when I was young that the 8th commandment was about being honest all the time. But it’s not about unflinchingly speaking the truth all the time, but rather about the loving use of truth on behalf of your neighbour. It’s about speaking truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) Truthful speech for the purpose of helping each other. For not all truths need to be spoken, at all times, in all contexts. Instead, we must temper our words with wisdom and concern for the benefit, and reputation of others. If you speak the truth with the intention to hurt another, you are a clanging cymbal calling people to warfare, to a war of words. It’s not going to increase truth or love, but mayhem.
And truthful speech can not be spoken unless you have clear sighted knowledge of what you are talking about. Or as Paul says, “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,” (1 Cor. 13:2) even things angels long to look into. (1 Pet. 1:12) For that is what the prophets spoke from, this knowledge that the Lord revealed to them, this clear sight so that they understood both what He who is truth taught, and what was going on in their day. (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 1 Chron. 12:32) So that they could call people to turn from their errors and steer them onto the path of life. For by such clear speech you can move mountains. (1 Cor. 13:2) Now our Lord may indeed mean that these words literally and not figuratively when He says, “Whoever has faith can say to this mountain, be taken up and thrown into the sea.” (Matt. 17:20; 21:21) But that never happens in Scripture. Instead, what does happen, is the stony hearts of men are changed, mountains are moved by truthful speech. (John 8:31-32) By one who believes in Jesus, who speaks from that clear eyed truth, spoken in love, hearts are changed.
That’s the power of truth. And faith built on such truth, it moves mountains. Mountains and obstacles in your life are overcome by truthful speech and action built on it. But again, you may know the truth, you may have all knowledge, but without love you are nothing, you accomplish nothing. For truth only accomplishes good things and not evil when spoken in love. Without love you are empty, puffed up, arrogant. (1 Cor. 13:2, 4)
And even sacrifice—giving away all you have, sacrificing your very body for others—is empty and accomplishes nothing if not done in love. (1 Cor. 13:3) For love determines who or what you do it for. Giving stuff to poor people helps little outside of a relationship. For instance, when most of us get unexpected windfall, with no strings attached, are we going to put it to good use? Or are just going to pamper yourself, with stuff, trips, parties, and before you know it, it’s gone. Most lottery winners end up just as broke as before, in short order, but more disillusioned, because all their good times friends are gone. Or giving your body over to be burned without the purpose of saving someone—by going into a burning building for instance—just means that you may be masochistic or suicidal. It gains nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3) But doing that in love is salvific for the one who is loved by that sacrifice.
These are general truths. This is a trio of necessities for successful living: truthful speech from clear-eyed knowledge, leading to meaningful sacrifice—all given purpose, its object, its meaning by the love which motivates it.
But too often you have not sacrificed in order to speak truthfully in love. Because you never know what will happen when you do so. You may move a mountain, or the mountain may fall on you. It is a sacrifice to act in love and to speak in truth. But it is how things get better. It is how you avoid real mayhem and make everything around you better. And you have failed to do it. You’ve avoided truthful, loving speech in order to keep the not so peaceful “peace”. And it won’t last. It just punts the problem further down the road, till its even bigger than it is now. Repent.
For Christ is the one who speaks with the tongues of men and angels, in love. From the prophetic powers He has as the Creator of all the universe. He knows all mysteries, and has all knowledge. He knows you and speaks to you in love. For your salvation. He has sacrificed His body to the flaming wrath of God against sin on the cross. And He has given away all He owns, His very life, even His body and blood to you. So that you might have life in Him. For He is love. In the flesh.
And His love has an object. You. He focusses His love on you. You were known to Him from before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4; Jer. 1:5) You were on His mind when He hung on cross.
And despite a man being born blind, the word about Jesus gave that man spiritual sight. (Luke 18:35-39) So that He spoke truthfully in love to Him who saves. His faith moved the mountain of blindness from his life. For just as love has an object, faith also has an object. Faith is in something. It is built on something. The blind man’s faith was in Jesus. Which means when our Lord said, “Your faith has healed or saved you,” our Lord was saying, “Your Jesus has saved you.” (Luke 18:42)
For the clearest sight one can have is that sight which comes from the Word of God. That faith which is built on the word of God come in our flesh to sacrifice Himself for you. In love. So that you, too, in love can be clear sighted, speaking truly, sacrificing on behalf of others. So that they be saved.
Which means, think of those you love. Think about them truly. Honestly. Pull away the cobwebs clouding your vision. What might you need to sacrifice to speak truly to them. So that they may be benefited in love. By you. Think about a loving way to speak to them, not in your old patterns and habits, and those arguments you’ve had over and over, but think about what is spoken in love for them.
For He who is truth has spoken into your heart, giving you the eyesight of faith, giving you words to speak. Words that heal and save. Just as His word of forgiveness has saved you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.