Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal.
1 Corinthians Chapter 13 Verse 1
"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. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
This is from I Corinthians 13, the love passage, one of the most beautiful passages from the Bible. It is also one of the most frightening because it is a good mirror into which I can look to see if I have enough love in me and to see what this love should look like in me. Let us look into this mirror together even if we don't really want to.I was thinking as I came here about how many times I've prayed to learn the language of men and of the angels'.
Do you know what I understand by this? That I should speak to the alcoholic in his language, to the intellectual in the intellectual's language, and to a farmer in the language of farmers'. If to a farmer I use parables from physics, then he will not understand. But if I speak about sowing the seed at the right time, then he will understand that the Gospel is the same thing. But if I say to the physicist that there is a different time to gather the wheat than the corn, maybe he will not understand me.
It's not really easy to learn each other's language, to learn the wife's language or the husband's language. "Why is she sometimes so upset? Maybe she is upset because I don't take care of her." But the woman doesn't know the husband's language either. "Why do you drink so much? Here is your child; don't you care about him? Look, I don't drink. Why do you drink?" The wife doesn't know that the alcoholic can't say no to alcohol. She thinks that he is drinking just when he wants. We should learn each other's language, the language of men.And we also have to learn the angels' language, God's language, to be able to speak about God's love, how God loves us. Not everybody understands this language. I don't know how it is for you.
It can happen that somebody goes for many years to church and yet he doesn't understand this language. Maybe even one of the pastors doesn't understand this language. Who knows why he is a priest? Maybe it is just for the salary, not for God. If I know the language of men and of angels', if I can learn this perfectly, if I know how I should speak with my husband and my children, if I know what I have to say to everybody; and if I know the angels language, what God wants to say to us, --- so many times I hear people say, "O pastor, how beautifully you speak." I say to them, "You should see how I live." The question is not whether I can speak well, in a good way; the question is how I live every day, if I live in that way. We see that we can know the language of men and of angels' and there is a possibility that we speak it without love.
When I do everything to understand the other's language, his problems, his sins, his struggles, this is not love? And Paul says, this is not love. It is a big thing but it is not love; I know a better way. What is love then? A boy sleeps with a girl and after a night they say, we love each other. What is love? They think that sex is love. I can say that my husband does not understand me and I go to another man. It's a big experience, somebody is taking care of me and I can say that this is my right and I can say that now I know what love is. And we don't realize that this is not love. Maybe it is just a false acting. I can feel something but it's not love. If you think that this is love, Paul says that you do not know what real love is. Real love is something else.
Paul says, if you can speak in the language of men and of angels' and you don't have love, it doesn't mean that you can't sing. You can sing but you will be a clanging cymbal. At the time Paul wrote these verses, this instrument wasn't really considered musical, it just made noise. The cymbal was the least beautiful sound, it just made a loud sound. And Paul says I can learn man's language and God's language, and maybe the priest will be pleased with me. And if the priest is pleased with me, maybe God is pleased with me. And then maybe the mission [to alcoholics] is pleased with me also and the local church where I belong. But Paul says that if I know this language, if I speak this language and don't have love in me, then it is louder than the melody. It is a loud love. It is not hate. It is not a cold heart. It is a loud love.
But why is it loud? Where is the problem? You know, man's love is loud when I want that the others should look at me and how I can love. Then what is in me is not love. I just act like I love. It is without meaning that I speak the man's and the angels' language. This happened with me; I can't not tell you this. A homeless alcoholic was able to stay in somebody's house but in this house the gas was cut off. The family couldn't pay and it was very cold. And somebody from this family came looking for me and asked for me to pay the bill for the gas and the [Bonus Pastor] foundation didn't have money. And then this thought came to me that we (my family) had some money at home and we should pay the bill. Yes, but I can say it not without shame, it was so good to me that in the office, the other workers were there and then I realized that this love was a very loud love and I realized that I was doing this just so that my co-workers could see that I was giving my money. And we read in verse 3 that even if we give our possessions or our body to the fire, we are nothing if we do it without love but I did this under the name of love.
So tell me now if I can speak to you about love if I am such a loud cymbal? I have to tell you that there is no love in me and this is very hard and how can I speak to you? Because when I read this passage, how can I come here and speak to you about this when I don't have love in me and the apostle Paul is speaking about me, not about you? Then we read that if I can tell the future and know all mysteries and there is not love in me, then I am nothing. You see that it says that I can know all the mysteries and all science. By science, he understands all that can be understood and by mystery, all that cannot be understood. There are things in our lives that we cannot understand. Even science has limits. The universe has limits that science cannot cross but Paul says that we should presume that we know everything, we know all the secrets; but even if we know all this and have not love, then we are nothing. We are nothing, even if we are very educated. Paul is very brave. I don't know if this bothers you. We can ask now, why does this Paul say that we are nothing? We can be upset. He is either right or not. If he is not right, then we can be upset. But maybe Paul knows of a kind of love that is bigger than knowledge, bigger than the knowledge of all the sciences and secrets, and then he has the right to speak as he does. Then it is better to wish for this love instead of this knowledge.
I know somebody who knows much more than everybody here together, not just the things that man may know but even the secrets. I will tell you his name. He is Satan. Maybe he is more intelligent than us. The devil has a lot of things in his small finger but does he have love? No, he doesn't. If I know less than the devil and I think that I am big, then I am even more nothing because there is not love in me. I don't know if you have some devilish things in you, but as I look around it seems there are some small devilish things inside of everyone here. You know what these small devilish things are? It is that if I have a small knowledge of something, I think I am big with this, I think that I'm different than the others. And if I'm thinking like this, then I will not love the others. It is dangerous to know all the secrets, all science. Even to know God very well is dangerous; if you know all these things and there is not love in you.
Why is it dangerous to know all science and all mysteries? Or even to know God? Satan knows God very well but he is still Satan. And you will be Satan if you don't have love in you. We can act in so many ways; we are nice, we are kind; we can act like a nice father, a nice relative, change our masks as the location requires. But under the mask is an ugly devilish face and if you have some knowledge then you think that you are a big man. But the biggest enemy of love is not hatred, but it is to think that I am big; I am big with what I have. Love is humble, always humble and life without love is always a prideful life. I think that I am different than the others. If I'm not an alcoholic, I look down on the alcoholics because I'm not drinking. And if I'm an alcoholic, then I say that those who are not alcoholics, they do not understand me. Everybody looks down on everybody else. This is our world.
The title of this sermon is, "The lack of love is meaninglessness." If this love is missing, than our lives are meaningless, everything is meaningless. And this meaninglessness can be described by four diseases. We have these four diseases. Everybody has these four diseases. You can argue with me if you think this is not correct. I can name four diseases. The first is the missing of love. We suffer because we are so lonely. Sometimes even in company we feel lonely. Even when we were in the pub, and we drank and we talked a lot. The meaning of these meetings is that this love is missing. The reason that we did not stay at home is because even at home I cannot get love and so I go to the pub and there I cannot get love. I expect love from my parents, I married for this reason, and I expect this from my husband or wife and my children. I give them love that they will give it back to me after a while but they don't take care of me. There is no man who doesn't suffer from this disease, from this problem. This problem is worse than our economic situation. It is worse than those times when we can't pay our bills.
Or when this love does come, it can be too late. I cannot react to this love or to those who show this love for me. I think it is acting, it is not sincere. So one of the diseases is that people don't love me, nobody loves me. I wish to get this love that I need. Maybe you get some substitute for this love and you say, "This is the love." But a problem comes and you realise that this wasn't the real love. I don't know, I don't speak man's language but maybe I can speak the language of disappointment. What do you think? Have you been disappointed by other men? You expected from them just a small love but they didn't give it to you. And if they had given you just this small love, maybe you could have resisted bigger problems.
The second big disease that we suffer from is wrong self-knowledge. I can say this, it is not enough that we suffer from lack of love but we suffer also because we misunderstand ourselves. What is wrong self-knowledge? When I think, "that's the real love, how I love others," -- this is the wrong self-knowledge. "How often I sacrifice myself for others. It's not true that I don't love my wife. Weekly, I beat her. I don't understand, I love her, I feel that I love her and I don't understand why my wife thinks that I don't love her." This is not a problem of self-knowledge? "I love my child. I don't know why he's rebelling against me. I give him everything." I give him everything? Because of wrong self-knowledge, I think that I am the big guy. I think that I give everything to my child but I don't give it. And I'm upset because of this. Of course it's a more pleasant thing to be upset than to confront reality, to see clearly. It's an easier thing to say, "Oh I love, I love the others but they don't understand me. I have a right to alcohol." But maybe this is a big rebel heart in us. I don't have the courage to look at things that I said were love and say that maybe this wasn't love.
Okay, you will maybe say that these things are true about another man but they are not true about me. So listen to what the apostle Paul says. He doesn't say that if you beat your wife or cheat your husband, then I don't have love in me. But Paul says, he is talking just about good things. If I give my body to the fire and there is not love in me, then I have nothing. It's wrong self-knowledge that tells me that if I go to the fire for the other man, that's love. And maybe you cheat yourself thinking that you produce love. Because who is so crazy that he would sacrifice himself for another? I was that stupid, you can say. And maybe God will say, that was not love. How can you go to the fire for somebody and not love that person? I will tell you: when it is not love that is guiding this action but that glory that I can receive from this act. Wanting everybody to be amazed by how I love you, my friend, my neighbor.
Do you know who is the man without any diseases? The man who wasn't examined thoroughly by the doctor. You believe that you are healed, that you are not sick, because no one has examined you very well. What is this Paul doing? He gives us a Sunday sermon so that we should examine ourselves and then we can have the right diagnosis. You don't want this examination to take place. You want to run from this examination. You don't want to look in the mirror. And if you don't want to, I cannot force you. But if you want to be healed, the right diagnosis is necessary. You think that you love? You think that after you examine your conscience, you can be satisfied by what you see? You think that you give more than you get? That you give more love than you get? You think that you can say this? You can say this about your life, how it has been 'till now? I'm afraid not. I'm afraid that this second disease, everybody suffers from it. When God examines us, it comes to the surface. I become naked. There is not any love in me but at least I can look in the face of the truth and I don't lie to myself anymore. I can be thankful because of this, that I can realise that I don't have love in me.
It is not a good feeling to stand naked but God can see inside man. And we don't like to look at ourselves through His eyes. Sometimes we let the doctor take off our clothes but if you don't let him, he cannot make a diagnosis, he cannot help you. God does not take off our clothes just to freeze us, just to make you into a frozen saint. He does so to heal you, to cover you with His forgiveness, with His love. Because if He cannot do this with you, then the others will see your nakedness. If you don't let God take off your clothes, to heal you, to cover you with His mercy, you will blush in front of the other men.
I have a friend from the Bible who escaped from the flood but he cannot escape from the wine. He is Noah, you know. And when he was drunk, he took off his clothes and the others saw him naked. The others see us naked; they see that our love is not the real love. It was not enough to be ashamed by this in front of the others? You are here my poor brothers so that God can cover you, so that you can go under this protection. You can say to the others, I have a very shameful life but God covered this, He has given me new clothes.The third disease is that we don't have forgiveness. Forgiveness is missing from our life. I said that the first disease was lack of love in our life; the second is a wrong self-knowledge because I say that real love is the way I love.
And now I say that, thirdly, we suffer because of the missing of forgiveness, because we don't receive forgiveness. And the fourth disease is that we are incomplete. We suffer because we are incomplete and this is why we cannot give love. In the week before this, we talked about the paralysed man and the proof that love is missing in your life. Do you have these four men in your life that can take you to Jesus? They took this paralysed man to Jesus and these four men want to help their friend because of love. They see that they cannot go into the house and if they have the wrong self-knowledge they can say, "Dear friend, we have brought you here, you can see that we have done everything and if we cannot go in, our consciences can be peaceful. We should return. It is not a problem, okay? You can see that we really have done everything."
How good it is if you have been missing love but someone brought you to this camp. But these four guys who took the paralysed man to Jesus do not suffer from wrong self-knowledge because they don't say of their love when they were in front of the house that this is the completion of their love and they are not proud. They don't say, "we have carried this paralysed man to Jesus and the Pharisees are standing near to Jesus and they don't do anything." They don't say this. They said, "This is not love. We do all that is possible and it doesn't work so we have to try to do the impossible." So they climbed up and went in through the roof and laid this man in front of Jesus. You understand? The wrong self-knowledge will turn you back in the middle of the road but with the right self-knowledge you can continue until the end of the road. You don't stop. Even if you have to destroy a house, you don't stop, just so that you can come to Jesus.
And the third disease, the missing of forgiveness: Jesus is looking at this paralysed man and He knows that he suffers most because of this, because he is not forgiven and Jesus says, your sins are forgiven. Why do we suffer? We suffer because we don't get love. Do you know how we can get love? If you get the forgiveness of your sins. You have a lot of sin, isn't it true? Maybe somebody here is missing one or two sins and so can't feel that he is enough of a sinner; I can give him some because I have a lot. This is the problem, it is no problem. We have a lot of sin. We have a lot of sin but we can have forgiveness for these sins. Jesus didn't say to everybody there that their sins were forgiven. No, He didn't say this. He just said it to this one man because only this one man was suffering because his sins weren't forgiven.
Why do I talk about this? Until you suffer from the missing of forgiveness, you cannot receive forgiveness, you cannot get forgiveness. It is not forgiveness until you are looking for it, asking God to forgive you. I don't talk just about those sins that our Catholic bothers confess to the priest and the priest forgives them. Not these small sins. I am talking about the big sin that I do not give myself to God. I do not want to give myself to Jesus, to accept him like a Saviour. I don't want to believe in Jesus. I believe everything about Jesus but to give my life's dream to Jesus, that's not for me. We don't want forgiveness. The Pharisees when they were upset began to ask, how can Jesus forgive? What is this forgiveness? They prove with this that they don't want this forgiveness. There are a lot of religious men; you know that there are white sinners and black sinners. But they have one thing in common, both of them are sinners. If someone is a white sinner, no one can see his sins. But if we could see how he is thinking, his thoughts, then we would run from what he is thinking. I don't know if you sometimes see these white sinners. I do. I just have to look in the mirror.
If you don't have forgiveness of sins, you are not washed. King Louis IV washed only once a year, but at least he did it once a year. I think that for the other 364 days, there wasn't a very good smell in the palace. We wash ourselves, we receive the forgiveness or we don't. No one else can do it for us. You are so use to your smell that you don't notice it. The others are aware of it but you are not. The fox cannot smell his own scent. My sin, I think, is not so bad as the other man's sin. We say, "Oh, I at am worst a white sinner, I am not so black as the others." My dear friends you can come to not just one ten day therapy camp, but to twelve ten day therapy camps but no one else can take a bath for you. Do you understand? Nobody.
The fourth disease is that we are incomplete. After Jesus forgave the paralysed man, he was still paralysed. And then He said, stand up and walk. And then he stood up on his paralysed legs and he walked. Jesus didn't say, I will give you a prosthesis and you can walk with this. No, you have to walk with your paralysed legs. Maybe somebody has come here thinking that he has enough will power to stop drinking. Our willing is incomplete, it cannot move. But it's no problem. It's not a problem if you are incomplete. Jesus is powerful. Even if you are incomplete, He can be merciful to you. We don't have to want to not be incomplete when we go to Jesus. When you pray or when you ask for help, you should lift yourself up to Jesus with your incompleteness. I am full with this kind of incompleteness. My prayer is incomplete, my life is incomplete. But how great is this Jesus that He is not halted by my incompleteness. Maybe I realise that my love is not enough or that it is nothing. Is this not incompleteness, that here is not love in us?
Hear the good news: you don't have to wait until there is love in you. You can come now to Jesus. And come in that way, that you don't have love. Jesus expects those who say that they don't have love, who know that they are incomplete, who sincerely confess that they are sinners. We are incomplete in that we don't give love. We don't get love so we cannot give love. How can we give love? The way we can give love is that Jesus heals us from these four diseases. He makes this diagnosis and He heals us. And His healing power makes it possible for us to want to give this love.
In these long years so much bitterness has gathered between you and your wife, your husband, your relations. It is difficult to forgive them. It is difficult to forget what the others did to me. Of course, we are just thinking about what the others did to us. We don't think about what we did to the others. This is why it is so difficult to forgive each other. We cannot humble ourselves in front of each other because we are a noisy clanging. We don't really have love in us. And when we have to say, forgive me, we cannot say it, we don't say it. Why is it so difficult to say this? It is not difficult for those who get this forgiveness, who receive the love.
So I am like Istvan [a man who gave a testimony before the sermon] and I say that when I look in this mirror I see that I am like a small rabbit and it is necessary to beat myself. But those who want to beat themselves now are blessed. Do you know why? Because they can read the Bible. Until you are at the place where you want to beat yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of God, until then, you cannot read from the Bible, you will not understand it. You will not understand what is the connection between faith in Christ and my alcoholism. We do not understand until this sincere self-examination takes place. When this happens, do you know how Jesus heals you? He heals you because He is the love that you are missing, He is this love.
Somebody suggested about this love passage that we replace the word love in the passage with the name of Christ. You can read it in this way. Do you know what is love, the real love, the love as Jesus loves? Real love is seen in a story from earlier in the century, when an English prince went India. A lot of people wanted to meet him, people from different castes, the higher castes, the super-men. In India, if somebody belongs to different castes, they cannot even meet each other and there are some poor men called pariahs who are considered nothing. They are outside the caste system. It is nothing to kill them. And a pariah was there who wished to see the English nobleman and they put a fence between him and the prince so that not even his breath would touch the prince. And the prince shook hands with the men of the higher castes and then he saw beyond the fence that there was somebody there. So he said, remove the fence. And they said, we cannot do this; there is a pariah there. And so he went there beyond the fence and shook hand with the pariah. And people gave this prince a name, the prince of the nobodies.
Do you know what is love? That He became man, the big prince from heaven came among us and He takes up the lost sinners. This is the love. This is the reason why it is not difficult to humble yourself and say that the others are more special than me. Has this love come to you, touched you? Have you received this love? The forgiveness after you were naked, have you been covered by this love? If you get this love you can give it to the others. He became prince of the pariahs to make us princes, the sons of the King. We should remain in this happiness, in this gladness that He came to me and saved me and forgave my sins. Amen.
Rev. Levente Horvath
Translated by Jocó Várro