Excellence In Love
By Shawn Thomas
In 2004 an Olympic marksman had just one shot to go win the gold medal. He lined up his rifle and hit the bull’s eye – but the bull’s eye he hit was on the wrong target! He lost the gold medal because although he hit what he was shooting at, he was aiming at the wrong target.
We remember that story and think, “What a shame!”, but the truth is, many of us today are just like that marksman. We are considered by others to be “successful” by world standards: we have money, competence, acclaim, and more. But as successful as we are considered to be, just like that Olympic marksman, most of us have hit the wrong target.
The Bible tells us that the “target” God wants us to shoot for, is love. I Timothy 1:5 says, “But the goal of our instruction is love, from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Love, God says, is our goal.”
In John 13:34-36, Jesus gave His church the command to love one another. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) LOVE was to be our priority, Jesus said. But His people have often made other things the priority instead: for example, the church at Corinth substituted several other things for love as the most important thing: their spiritual gifts, their abilities, their work for the Lord. Unfortunately, we in the contemporary church have been guilty of the same thing. Let me give you an example:
For the last generation or so, one of the great emphases among church growth “gurus” has been on “excellence in the church.” They have taught: if you want to reach people; if you want to be the church God wants you to be, then you need to do everything you do with “excellence”! That has meant professional-quality singers and musicians, Hollywood-type lighting and sound equipment; artistic quality graphics and materials; a church plant that looks and runs as smoothly as Disney World – and on and on. This “mantra” of excellence has become ingrained in many churches and has actually been written into their ministry statements, that everything is to be done with excellence.
But I think that it is very instructive to us that at the end of I Corinthians 12, Paul writes: “and I will show you a more excellent way”. And that “more excellent way” he shows us is then found in I Corinthians 13 — the way of LOVE! So according to scripture, a church or a ministry can be “excellent” in their preaching, excellence in their music, excellence in their graphics, in their facilities, in their child care, in their ushers and greeters – slick and professional in everything they do, so that they put Hollywood and Disney to shame — and totally miss true Biblical excellence – because the Bible says that real excellence in the church is ministry done with LOVE! I am not saying that we should not do the best we can in everything we do for the Lord – we should — but God’s message to the church today is, if you really want to be “excellent” in His church, then be excellent in LOVE! LOVE is a great priority to God.
A whole generation of churches has tried to impress the world with their professionalism and excellence – but the world has not been impressed! They have not been impressed with the excellence of our presentations or our programs; they have not been impressed with the excellence of our brochures and handouts; they have not been impressed with the excellence of our buildings and grounds. You know what would impress them; you know what would shock the world; what would really grab their attention? If we showed them excellence in LOVE! The world was not impressed with the buildings or materials that the early church possessed — they had nothing of that sort! — but Tertullian reported that the world said of them, “Behold, how they love one another!” The early church didn’t have much — all they possessed was excellence in love – but that was the most important thing, and through it, they changed the world. THIS is the excellence we should strive for: excellence in love.
I remember when my baby sister was a little preschooler, my dad would sit her on his lap, and love on her, and say, “What are you good for, anyway, Hopie?” And she’d throw up her hands and put out her lip, and say, “I don’t know.” One day, Dad put her on his lap and was loving on her, and he asked her again, “What are you good for, Hopie?” And she said, “I’m good for love!”
Oh, that that would really be the desire of each of us in God’s church! The gifts or talents or abilities or excellence we display in His service is not nearly as important in His church, as being “good for love.” It is absolutely superior to everything else. And it is true not only in the church but in our marriages, families, at work, school – wherever we are. There is no substitute for love; it is the most important thing.
“And now these three remain, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
You can read more good Christian news HERE at Blue Ridge Christian News.