A new post office was built in a small Pennsylvania town. It was a town that didn’t see much new construction so everybody in the community was very excited about it. But on the day they held the ribbon cutting and opened up for business they made a horrifying discovery: there was no mail slot for people to drop their letters into. They had a nice counter up front, a great air-conditioning system, beautiful restrooms, and a nice loading dock in the back, but the one thing they didn’t have was a mail slot.
Red-faced, they hurried up and got a crew in there to knock out a section of the wall and put in a mail slot because, as we all know, without a mail slot a post office is not really a post office. It’s just another building.
Which brings us to a very simple but important truth. No matter what you’re talking about, there is an essential quality that must be present if that thing is to be taken seriously.
A post office can’t be taken seriously if it doesn’t have a mail slot.
A car can’t be taken seriously if it doesn’t have a steering wheel.
A house can’t be taken seriously if it doesn’t have a roof.
And according to the Apostle Paul, the church can’t be taken seriously if it doesn’t love people:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Notice the wonderful things he lists in this passage.
–Being able to prophesy in every language.
–Understanding all the subtle nuances of God’s will.
–Having faith strong enough to move mountains.
–Giving all your money to the poor.
–Sacrificing your life for others.
In our minds, those would be the five greatest things a Christian could ever do. But in God’s mind there’s one thing that is more important than all of those good works put together, and that’s loving people. If we don’t love people, it doesn’t matter how much other good stuff we do. Remember Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
If you’re wondering why your church isn’t growing (or even worse, why it’s going in the other direction), maybe this is the reason. Maybe the residents of your community have tried to mail a letter and couldn’t find the mail slot.