Paul's formula for excellence is excellence in love


Saturday, July 28, 2018

“Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” — I Corinthians 12:31 (NIV)

One day in a quiet moment in the normally noisy newsroom where he worked, H.L. Mencken shouted at the top of his lungs, “It's coming in the doors!” Needless to say, everyone stopped and looked in his direction. “It's up to the bottom of the desks!” said Mencken as he rose to his feet. “What are you talking about,” asked one of his colleagues. “It's up to the tops of our desks!” shouted Mencken as he jumped to the top of his desk. “What do you mean?” rang a chorus of shouts. “Mediocrity!” came the caustic reply. “We're drowning in mediocrity!” he shouted as he jumped from the desk and rushed out the door, never to return.

H.L. Mencken was a prophet far ahead of his time. If ever there was a shout that would ring true for our society, it is this one: We are drowning in a sea of mediocrity.

Who can name a worthy role model for our young people? Who can name a politician they admire without reservation? Who can even find a decent show to watch on television? We flip through hundreds of channels on our remote and what do we end up saying? “There's nothing to watch.” Mediocrity.

In this shallow world, how our hearts yearn for a more excellent way. Listen for a moment to Paul's formula for excellence. “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,” I Cor. 13:1-3.

Now, let me make sure I understand this. Paul seems to be saying that I can be an eloquent preacher of the gospel, with my worship services broadcast around the world, but if I have a heart full of hatred and indulge in character assassination, I am a bunch of noise. I can have my Ph.D. in nuclear physics, be a Nobel prize winner with several books to my credit, but if I'm not able to relate to my family, I've accomplished nothing. I can be a world class athlete, totally committed to being the best I can be, but if I care not for others, my gold medals are a sham. Is that what Paul is saying? Gee, I can think of some people who are not going to want to hear that.

Amy Mulrooney wrote to Dear Abby hoping the stranger who helped her at a busy airport in Washington state would see her letter and know how much she appreciated his generosity. Amy flew in for an interview for admission into a veterinary school. Before she left she made reservations for a rental car and a motel room. But at the airport Amy’s credit card was not accepted. “So there I was,” Amy wrote, “stranded at the airport.” She immediately called her roommate upset and crying hysterically.

It was while Amy was on her cell phone that a gentleman came up next to her and tapped her on the shoulder. The unknown gentleman handed Amy a one-hundred-dollar bill and walked away. Then he disappeared into the crowd.

This anonymous benefactor made it possible for her to arrive on time for the job interview, and she got into veterinary school. Amy said she will remember her experience for the rest of her life.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer was once asked to name the greatest person in the world. The good doctor replied, “The greatest person in the world is some unknown individual in some obscure corner of the earth who at this very hour has gone in love to be with another person in need.”

That's what Paul is saying to us. The only excellence is excellence in love.

Emmett Murphy is minister of Journey Christian Church. The opinions expressed in this column belong to the author and may not be those of Mid-Atlantic Christian University.