If I Do Not Have Love

if i have not love

My daughter has started singing in the church choir. And I had nothing to do with it.

My fiancee, her daughter and I were all received into the Church on the feast of St. Stephen. Immediately after that, we were joined in marriage. It was a busy Sunday.

With my typical convert’s zeal, I’ve tried to interest my daughter (I don’t care to call her my step-anything; your opinions may vary) in scripture reading, and the wealth of theology that appeals to me.

No luck.

Standing for an hour, crossing herself, and chanting along with the liturgy is a lot to ask. And now having to go on Wednesday night for Vespers too? How much can one kid take?

As a child, I was forced to get up on Sundays, put on itchy dress clothes, and sit in an uncomfortable pew (twice, mind you!) every week. That technique should work for her. In theory.

It’s a fight every single Sunday.

Last weekend we sat down and started watching the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, a favorite of mine that was broadcast annually around Easter when I was growing up. She might recognize parts of the Divine Liturgy in Christ’s words, or the deeds of John the Baptist. It could be an educational experience as well as family bonding time.

“When is this going to be over?” she asked midway though part one of four.

My latest scheme? Creating a Pascha chart to document her fasting, praying, studying and giving. It might help her take ownership of her part in the upcoming Great Fast.

I know. I am exhausting to live with.

And then it happened. My daughter went to stand with the choir at Vespers last week.

She’s been slowly befriending a young girl her age at church, and recently she’s stopped sitting safely between my wife and I at coffee hour. She now sits at a newly-christened “kid’s table.” The girls now stand together in the choir, alternate taking up an offering, and cleaning up spent candles after the liturgy.

My wife and I discussed our daughter’s newfound enjoyment of church activities after a rare successful attempt at family Bible study. And my wife hit me between the eyes with this:

“You’ve got the scholarship. You just don’t seem to have the belief.”

My wife isn’t usually given to dropping wisdom. She prefers to keep quiet and let others – mainly me – be thought of as fools. But this was profound. And she was right.

“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.”

Paul’s words in his letter to the church at Corinth have long been used in Pentecostal circles to prove the ongoing existence of spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues. A plain reading of the letter shows it to be an admonition against spiritual pride.

If you’ve become a regular reader of this blog, you’ve already seen my tendency toward self-righteous biblical knowledge. There’s certainly nothing wrong with knowing and understanding scripture. Some of our greatest saints were theologians, men of letters and wisdom. Paul himself was one of the great minds of his time.

Jesus said to love our enemies, not to defeat them with proof texts. Jesus was engaged in debates several times by the theologians of his day. He refused to take the bait.

I have a lot to learn.

Thankfully my wife and my daughter are teaching me through the effective use of a brilliant theological tactic:

Love.

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