A little over two years ago I received it. I suppose when one broadcasts their pointed thoughts and realizations openly among fellow Christians online, one ought to expect it: the “sounding gong comment”. Though I probably should have seen it coming, it surprised me nonetheless. There it was; a comment below a status update I’d posted on Facebook.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1
I can’t remember what my status update was, but I remember the comment. It sent me into a season of deeper soul-searching, because I wanted to share all I was learning and exhort my Christian friends to see what I was seeing, and yet I definitely didn’t want to be unloving in doing so. And now it was implied that I was, in fact, unloving. Regardless of my intentions, a dear sister had perceived me to be.
You see, I’d begun what some are calling a “red pill” transformation and the Lord was changing me radically. Admittedly, as the scales fell from my eyes I was very vocal…and where words are many, sin is not absent1, so I’m sure I didn’t say everything right and at times said more than I should have.
One must acknowledge as well that it’s difficult to determine one’s tone in the written word, especially in short blurbs such as Facebook posts. It’s completely different than sitting across the table from a sister, looking into her eyes, and discussing the matter at hand. Take any random status update and read it aloud several times using different emotions. The same statement or short paragraph can sound everything from sarcastic to angry to light-hearted to compassionate to pleading to downright hateful. It can be really difficult “hear” what’s actually being said, and the mindset/mood of the reader affects the reception as much as the lack of voice tone and body language.
Obviously the written word must be handled with care, and that is what I try to do by God’s grace. I’ve learned a lot since receiving the “sounding gong comment”, and I’ve made a lot of changes in my communications – both written and verbal – since then. I’m actually extremely thankful for that comment. It hurt at the time, especially since my intentions were good, but it introduced a lesson I had to learn.
In the hopes of avoiding future misunderstanding I’d like to explain where my heart was then – and is now when I write. This is in no way intended to excuse my blunders and sin. I’m still responsible to strive to be gentle and loving while speaking the truth and sharing my heart, and I pray you will forgive me when I fail. I want to share an illustration that will hopefully help you to understand that when you “hear” passion in my “voice” while I’m sharing a Scripture or calling fellow Christians to action, that it’s most often flowing from a zeal and love for the brethren and for Christ and for the glory and honor of His name. By God’s grace, my zeal is not flowing from a hateful, accusatory, self-righteousness — rather, I become so zealous because I’ve just repented from or discovered or am working through the issue myself! I’m not any better than anyone else.
I am just a little girl in Kindergarten, who is coloring with crayons from my deluxe 64-pack (you know, the one with the crayon sharpener on the back). I can’t even color in the lines well. I can’t name all the colors, and I make all sorts of mistakes, but I’m just so happy for the chance to color. Suddenly, I find a crayon I hadn’t ever noticed before. It’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen anything like it! I scribble on my page, and then survey my work in awe and glee. “This color is amazing!” 2
I’m bouncing with joy and excitement. I lean across the cluster of 6 little school desks to show my classmates, shouting “Look!! Look at this color! Isn’t it beautiful?! Have you seen it? Have you tried it? Oh, isn’t it wonderful?!!” I’m so excited about this crayon I’ve found that I plead with my classmates to check their crayon boxes. I desperately want them to be able to use this color, too!
Or, perhaps, my classmates and I have been using a color for some time and we proudly call it cerulean. It’s a wonderful, fancy word for a wonderful, fancy blue! However, one day when I proudly show the teacher what I’ve colored with my cerulean crayon, she gently and kindly tells me that the picture is nice, but the color of the crayon is actually blue-violet.
I’m rather upset at first, but once she helps me sound out the word on the crayon wrapper I realize she’s right. She then shows me which crayon is cerulean, and has me color with each one. I begin to appreciate how beautiful each distinct color is, and get very excited again.
This is great! Not only is there really a wonderful, fancy cerulean blue that’s even better than what we thought it was, the crayon we thought was cerulean is still a gorgeous color itself, only it’s to be applied differently than we thought. I run to my classmates with my blue-violet and cerulean crayons in my fists, and tell them what happened and show what cerulean actually is. I want them to know the truth I’ve learned. All this time we’ve believed that blue-violet was cerulean! How silly we were! I long for them to see both colors distinctly in their own beauty, and to learn to recognize the words on the wrappers. I long for us all to learn to color well and to know and use all 64 crayons!
I know I’m not the teacher — I’m not even a 2nd or 3rd grader! Sister, I’m just one of your classmates, and we’re all in the Lord’s classroom together. I don’t know all the ways to use the crayons and I can’t name half the colors in the box. I can’t even color in the lines well. When I exclaim or exhort, it’s only because I’ve just learned something and I long for you to see what I see! If you’re a child of God, you have the same deluxe 64-pack of crayons that I do – you have the same Spirit and the same Word of God! The thought of my classmates living without a truth I lived without for too long, and the excitement from the communion with God and the glory to God that truth brings, compel me to exhort you. Look in your box! See? It’s there! You have it, too!
We each have our “found a crayon” moments. I want you to share yours with me as much as I want to share mine with you! My hope and prayer is that the spirit and longing I’ve just described will be what you “hear” from me, and that as your classmate I’ll be just as happy when you show your newly found crayon to me as I am to show you mine. We’ll both be wrong sometimes. Sometimes one of us will be wrong; sometimes both of us will be wrong. But we’re to keep learning and growing — loving and exhorting and encouraging one another along the way.
1 Proverbs 10:19 (ESV) ~ “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
2 I heard the general crayon illustration in a sermon I listened to recently by Jim Berg, and I want to be sure he receives the credit for it. Whatever your opinion of Dr. Berg or Bob Jones University, the man gives stellar illustrations. There are obvious areas of doctrine and practice in which I’d disagree with him, yet I believe Dr. Berg is a brother who loves the Savior, and everything I’ve heard and read from him as been a blessing to me in some way.