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 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV)
We're nearing the end of the sojourn discussing Lent and the Christian disciplines. Only one more class remains and this week was the second discussion on study. I was particularly influenced by some writing by Francis Chan regarding the goal of study and how we relate to the world around us. A core question was, "When people are around you, do they get glimpses of God? Or do they just see a lot of knowledge?"
Taking this question to heart, I have to ask myself, "To what end do I do my study?" I've said all along, the practice of disciplines - whether in conjunction with Lent or not - is to deepen my relationship with God. But if I'm seeking to go deeper without any regard to what others see, then I'm doing what Paul warns about in the 1 Corinthians passage. I'm a lot of noise with no real substance.
Practice of the disciplines is a good thing. Study, the kind that digs deep and seeks to learn and apply something that will truly change my life, is also a very good aim. But if that life is changed only in a superficial way, then Paul is correct - "I am nothing." My focus needs to seek to strengthen my relationship with my Father and extend my reach to my brothers and sisters.
Along my travels on this Crooked Path, hen a dark, lost world sees me they should see Christ. As Chan says, when I encounter someone, I need ask the question, "How can I lift up this person with the knowledge I have?" Anything else, is just a noisy gong.