Joshua Breland is a seminary student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and blogs at JoshuaBreland.com
Let’s look at the chapter and verse.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1
Paul is beginning a section on how love is a necessity for godly and helpful behavior. Even though Paul might have powerful truth and knowledge, even speaking in someone’s own language or dialect, if he does not communicate that truth in love he will hardly be well received. This is a much needed reminder for all of us on blogs and social media. I know I need to camp out here for a while.
But this is not how I have recently seen Paul’s helpful words applied. I have repeatedly seen Christians quote 1 Corinthians 13:1 as a biblical warrant to not listen to another Christian just because he or she is loud or saying truth without table manners. This is unfortunate.
Not everyone is spiritually mature or in a great spiritual place in their Christian walk. Many people are going through great challenges which have stretched their faith, emotions, and Christian behavior. These people need to be listened to, not shunned because they have become a clanging cymbal to your ears.
Now, hear me out. I am not saying some people need not be ignored or written off as unhelpful. But doing so would need to come with great thought and consideration, not on a whim because you dislike whatever is being said or how it is being said. Our dislike of how something is said does not necessarily mean it was not said in love. Discernment is always needed in dealing or not dealing with certain individuals.
What I am saying, and hoping, is that we can grow in listening to one another and stop the, “I don’t like that you are loud and abrasive so I am just going to ignore you.” The church is not helped by that kind of approach and Paul’s teaching is certainly not properly applied by such an application. Paul says just a few verses later, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). Let us bear and endure our loud brothers and sisters for as long as we can. They may just have truth to help us on our way.