Our son loves to make up math equations. For some reason, he likes to insist that two plus two equals five. He may end up being a genius, become a trusted expert in the field of quantum mechanics, or write, prove and publish theorems in differential geometry. But we all know that his math right now is not so good. Of course, 2 + 2 = 4, just as 5 – 1 = 4.
But what about when 5 – 1 = 0 ?
A quick lesson in divine mathematics, for all of us; or, at least for me.
First Corinthians 13:1-3:
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.
Paul makes the same point five times:
- If I speak eloquently, but do not have love, then I have become a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.
- If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, then I am nothing.
- If I have great faith, but do not have love, then I am nothing.
- If I give all my possession to feed the poor and do not have love, then it doesn’t amount to anything.
- If I surrender my body to burned, but do not have love, then it profits me nothing.
Do you see that? If we have the five, but lack the One, then we have zero. In this way 5 – 1 = 0. I love math, and have always felt I’ve been apt to do well in problem solving. The issues here are not so simple, though, because without God’s Love at work in my heart I have nothing, because I am nothing.
If you’re like me, you long to have the gifts described — eloquent speech, prophetic powers, great faith, treasures to share with others, even the courage to give up your life when needed — but can be certain none of those are ends in and of themselves. Each is meant to be used in the service of others, motivated by a deeper motivation of sacrificial love. This will no doubt take determination and courage, coupled with true generosity to embody the grace given to us in Jesus. It is far easier to do that other five than the One.
Who will join me in living a love of love, no longer okay with being a zero?