THE GIFT OF LOVE
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
Th e profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.
Paraphrase © 1972, Hal H. Hopson.
PARAPHRASED FROM 1 CORINTHIANS 13 by well-known church music composer, Hal Hopson, who was a graduate of Baylor University and set to the traditional English tune, Waly-Waly, this hymn is well known to many in our churches.1
While this hymn (UMH 408) has the ability to tug at our heart, sadly its theological content has not found its way in being lived out in the lives of some Christians.
Most recently, there was a news report that a church in Gainsville, Florida, was planning to commemorate the tragedy of Sept 11, 2010 by burning the Koran. Its pastor when interviewed said, “How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?” Pastor Terry Jones told the Associated Press: “Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s time to stand up. Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour.”2
He subsequently cancelled the plan to burn the Koran. In my view, it is sad when Christians, especially church leaders, misunderstand the Gospel and Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God and take it upon themselves to exact judgment on behalf of God in contradiction to what Scripture teaches us about conducting ourselves in relationship with others.
We are reminded of Jesus’ command to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27, 35), and forgive those who sin against us, even as we are taught to pray through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6)?
As to how many times we should forgive others, Jesus has the answer: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”, and He proceeds to elaborate on that directive. (Matthew 18:22-ﬀ).
We must never forget that forgiveness is one of the distinctive hallmarks of Christianity. When we fail to adhere to this basic tenet of our faith, we cannot claim to be faithful followers of Christ since Christ Himself forgave. He hung dying on the cross. The story of our salvation is tied to Jesus’ redemptive act, which has at its core, God’s purposeful will to forgive because of His love. (John 3:16). We should also forgive others if we are to receive the benefits of God’s amazing love and proclaim our desire to live our lives in the example of Christ.
Do we take note of the implications of what we say in the Lord’s Prayer as we pray “forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, or when we sing the song “to be like Jesus”? How do we live out such noble desires?
The next time we sing this hymn, may we truly practise what we believe, remembering that if we have not loved others, not only our words, but also our most sincere actions to proclaim the Gospel and God’s reign on earth are all in vain and useless. (1 Corinthians 13).
1 http://www.hymnary.org/tune/o_waly_waly. Internet accessed Sept 7, 2010.
2 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100907/ap_on_re_us/quran_burning. Internet accessed Sept 7, 2010.