The Clanging Cymbal


Last week I was chatting with my brother, who recently moved near me, about the possibility of going to a concert. As we discussed what type of concert we would both enjoy, I explained I would be unable to attend anything too loud and ruckus-y.

“Brother,” I said. “We’ll have to keep it low key. I can’t do loud. I can’t do clangy. I can’t do cymbals and drums and high pitched screaming, err … singing. I’m afraid my hearing has been heightened with chronic illness, and if you take me to a jimmy jam concert, my last nerve will be yelling at me to get out within the first few songs and pray tell … who wants to pay money for that?”

He understood. So we plan to go see petite ballerinas in pink tutus twirling ’round and ’round to soothing classical tunes.

I kid.

We will find a middle ground, something that is beautiful and soothing, lovely and loved by us both.

Love, when it is perfected, is like what I desire in a concert – beautiful, soothing, comforting, and pain relieving. No wonder Paul, when he  lists faith, hope, and love, insists love is the greatest of all.

He also flips things around and says that without love … we are nothing.

There’s much striving in our world to be a somebody. We climb corporate ladders, start non-profit agencies, feed the poor, heal the sick, counsel the downtrodden, preach the truth, and perform a host of other good deeds, all in the hopes that we won’t waste our life. But I Corinthians 13, or “the love chapter”, says that if we do these things, if we practice our God-given spiritual gifts without love, we have become exactly what we are striving not to become: nothing. And if that’s not disheartening enough, our good works amount only to the sound of clanging cymbals.

In other words, without love, we are annoying. To a sick and dying world, we are a loud, distressing, nerve wracking note played in a symphony of already chaotic chords.


True love suffers long, is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails. If I am loving truly, then climbing the corporate ladder, being “just a mom”, or exercising whatever other gift I have been blessed with will look profoundly different than if I had done the same work in selfishness or any other unloving trait.

I will still require my children to obey, but I will require that obedience out of love for the Lord and His glory. The kid’s room will be clean. Not because it’s embarrassing to me when my girlfriends visit, but because good stewardship of all He’s given means good upkeep of all He’s given.

I will strive to be the best in the workplace by humbling myself, serving others, and promoting others along the way. I will not use my sharp, pointy elbows to plow others down who are climbing the same ladder.

I will strive to know more about God, but I will humbly and eagerly share that knowledge with others, so that they too might come to know Him and grow in His grace.

I will counsel the hurting ~ without condemnation ~ because truth be told, whether my problems are smaller or bigger than theirs, we are all in need of the same forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

I will gently roll my husband over on his side when he snores in the night, rather than kicking him in the guts with my ice cold feet.

My husband will not shove me away when I unwittingly put said ice cold feet on him in the middle of the night, but rather cup me in the crook of his arms and show a little pity.

I will assume the best of those around me, even when they seem curt or a mite miffed in their comments, because everyone is battling their own unique war, and it’s probably nothing personal.

I will tell the truth, when the truth needs to be told. But I will do it in love, with all gentleness and humility.

When others fall into sin, I will not rejoice in their iniquity because in some sick way, it makes me look better. No … I will grieve, because their sin doesn’t bring glory to God and hurts the body of Christ.


For good reason, the first and second greatest commandments are in a specific order – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and then love others as ourselves. Before we love others properly, we must first love Jesus in a manger, Jesus teaching in the temple, Jesus the carpenter and fisherman and great physician, Jesus the wine converter, Jesus dying, Jesus risen. In getting to know and love Him, we learn to know and love others. But when we confuse the order and first love ourselves, then others, then Jesus, the sound of our concert becomes disconcerting at best. Our cymbal clangs, our brass blares … and the world cups its ears at our discord.

The world is sick, and its ears are sensitive, but it is still able to decipher a good tune from a bad tune. It intuitively knows that loving wholly requires holy loving. So while it is our duty and privilege to love the world, if we want the world to respond, we must do it in a way that is music to its ears. 



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One Response to “The Clanging Cymbal”

  1. Amy Hunt says:

    Lovely. In every way. I’m blessed for reading your words today, sweet Brenda.

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