"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal."—1 Corinthians 13:1 (NABRE)
Original piece by Kingdom Compass on Unsplash.
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This is the Church of Santo Stefano in Assisi, Italy. It’s a beautifully simple church built of stone. Tradition holds that these bells—seen in the picture—miraculously tolled on October 3, 1226 at the moment that St. Francis died. He passed away in a small church a mile or so away (where the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels now stands).
Bells have a beautiful sound. While they are sometimes used in songs in fitting ways, they really stand out most when there is nothing else competing to be heard. I think about a bell tower ringing out, or a small bell ringing out during mass.
These days, there seems to be a lot of sounds and opinions competing to be heard. Among all of it, we are called to speak lovingly. Even if we are technically correct, even if we speak about truth and God’s commandments in an unloving way, we’ve lost the whole point and our words will fall on deaf ears. In these moments, our heart—our emotions—run contrary to our words—our intellect—and therefore our whole being is not in sync. We’d be like most of the Pharisees in the Gospels, so wrapped up in law and correctness that we lost the love we once had.
If a group of people conversing were analogous to band-mates performing a song, we would sound like the band-mate obnoxiously playing an unwelcome gong or crashing the cymbal too often. On a lighter note, this reminds me of the Blue Oyster Cult More Cowbell skit from Saturday Night Live.
This doesn’t mean we flip to the other end of the spectrum and never speak out or defend our faith, or even worse along with with beliefs we disagree with. The sin of omission—not speaking or taking action against evil when we are called to—is wrong, just as saying or doing something evil is.
Belief in God is an open door, and forcing people through never works. Love of God has to be a free choice, and I am inspired to enter more deeply into it by following those who truly live out their faith, where you can hear the love and peace in their words like a beautiful sounding bell.