Somebody copied the following paraphrase from a well-worn carbon in the billfold of a thirty-year veteran missionary. With her husband, she was on her way to another tour of duty at Khartoum, Sudan. No one seems to know who authored it, but whoever it was captured the essence of the greatest essay on love ever written.
If I have the language ever so perfectly and speak like a pundit, and have not the love that grips the heart, I am nothing. If I have decorations and diplomas and am proficient in up-to-date methods and have not the touch of understanding love, I am nothing.
If I am able to worst my opponents in argument so as to make fools of them, and have not the wooing note, I am nothing. If I have all faith and great ideals and magnificent plans and wonderful visions, and have not the love that sweats and bleeds and weeps and prays and pleads, I am nothing.
If I surrender all prospects, and leaving home and friends and comforts, give myself to the showy sacrifice of a missionary career, and turn sour and selfish amid the daily annoyances and personal slights of a missionary life, and though I give my body to be consumed in the heat and sweat and mildew of India, and have not the love that yields its rights, its coveted leisure, its pet plans, I am nothing, nothing. Virtue has ceased to go out of me.
If I can heal all manner of sickness and disease, but wound hearts and hurt feelings for want of love that is kind, I am nothing. If I write books and publish articles that set the world agape and fail to transcribe the word of the cross in the language of love, I am nothing. Worse, I may be competent, busy, fussy, punctilious, and well-equipped, but like the church at Laodicea—nauseating to Christ.
How about you and me committing ourselves to a life like this . . . a life that amounts to something . . . rather than nothing.
Each new day God brings our way is a fresh opportunity.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “The Final Priority,” in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1983), 310-11. Copyright © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.