Have you ever noticed in the Bible how God used dreams to reveal Himself and communicate His will to others?
There was Jacob, dreaming of angels ascending and descending a ladder to Heaven. Joseph was freed from prison in Egypt when God enabled Him to correctly interpreted a series of dreams. Daniel rose to a position of high authority in Babylon after interpreting a troubling dream the king had. Mary’s husband, Joseph, was told in a dream not to divorce her even though she was pregnant with God’s Son. And Peter received the revelation through a dream that the gospel of Christ was for gentiles as well as Jews/
God doesn’t often speak to me directly, but recently I awoke in the middle of the night with a brief message I believe was from Him. I don’t know if it was a dream, or just a thought, but what He said was simple.
I had been interacting with a friend, a fellow believer on a theological matter and had sent him a lengthy email about it, citing chapter and verse to support why what I believe is true. What our disagreement concerned doesn’t matter here, but what the Lord spoke to me about it consisted of just two words: “Clanging cymbal.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:1 it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” It goes on to say, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing….”
To me, this says that from God’s perspective, it’s not just what we say – however true it may be – but also how we say it, and why. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
My natural communication style is to be direct and forthright. The problem with that is, even if what I say is on point, I can offend or hurt someone if I fail to cushion what I say without also communicating the genuine love and concern I have for them. Too often I’ve done just that. So I sent my friend a follow-up email, asking his forgiveness for insensitivity and lack of Christlike love I might have conveyed earlier. His or my rightness or wrongness wasn’t important.
In 1 John 4:16 we’re told, “God is love,” and I’ve thought a lot about that and what it means in an everyday, practical sense. I plan to do even more thinking about it. But one manifestation of it – if it’s true, as the Bible tells us, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) – is that whether it’s our speech, thoughts toward others, or actions, all should be guided according to the love of Jesus working in us and through us.
Hence, even if we’re exactly correct in what we’re saying – and I’m not arguing or defending the point I was trying to make with my friend – if we don’t do it with sincere, Christ-centered love toward the other person(s), it’s all for naught.
Today’s society encourages people to vent their feelings, frustrations and fears. “Just let it out.” But much – probably most – of it is rooted in hatred, antagonism and animosity. There’s no love being shown, no desire for reconciliation or working toward mutual accord. This, perhaps more than in any other way, is where followers of Jesus can distinguish ourselves from everyone else. (And if you think I’m pointing a finger at you, keep in mind I’m pointing the other fingers back at me!)
In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." He also said we’re to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27,35). Why such a big deal about love? Why all this schmaltzy stuff Jesus is talking about, if we’re to win the day, exert our influence, and right the wrongs?
Years ago, a wise man put it this way: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That’s good advice as we go into the day, governing how we think about others, speak to them and act toward them. Are we speaking and acting with grace, as Colossians 4:6 instructs us, or do we come across as resounding gongs or clanging cymbals?
Crashing cymbals might be useful for marching bands and rock groups, but not for building relationships or creating harmony and unity.