Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Speaking Louder

"Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."
- 1 John 3:18

Have you ever been lied to? Have you ever made a promise and later been unable to do what you vowed? Have you ever said something and wished you could take it back? Have you ever wanted to say something, but just couldn't find the right words?  

Last time, I talked a little about the importance of what we say. Words express ideas and proclaim beliefs, and they can be very powerful. They have the ability to change people's lives in all kinds of ways. But sometimes words aren't enough, sometimes they can be deceptive, and sometimes we don't even mean what we say.

"A picture is worth a thousand words."
"Seeing is believing."
"You've got to practice what you preach." 
"Actions speak louder than words."

All these sayings reaffirm the truth that you can say whatever you want, but if you don't live it, you don't believe it. If I say I love my wife, but I cheat on her or beat her or treat her like a slave, then I don't really love her. If I say I believe God wants us to love everyone like he does, but I give in to racism or refuse to help the poor when I'm able, then my actions prove I don't really believe it. If what I do doesn't line up with what I say, then my words are meaningless.

The 2004 movie, Closer, tells a very rough-around-the-edges story of four mixed up individuals in dysfunctional relationships. Late in the film, Natalie Portman's character has a moment of clarity, when she realizes the truth I'm talking about. Her boyfriend - who has mistreated and mistrusted her throughout the film - says he loves her, to which she replies:
"Where? Where is this love? I can't see it. I can't touch it. I can't feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can't do anything with your easy words."
Easy, empty, meaningless words are no good. If we want our words to count, they must be backed up by action. This is the theme behind the song "More Than Words" by Extreme.

As I listen to these lyrics, I can imagine most of the words (though not all) being spoken from God's perspective, and I'm reminded that whether we're referring to love for God or for others, love is expressed not just in things we say, but in things we do. If I love the Lord, it's not enough to simply say so: I show it by overcoming temptations and doing what he asks of me (John 14:15). If I love my wife, it's not enough to say so: I show it by being faithful to her, taking care of her needs, and doing things that will make her happy. If I love my co-workers, I show it by refusing to gossip and by choosing to work hard and treat them kindly. If I love my church, I show it by supporting the church with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, and my service. Love is not just some feeling or emotion; it must be acted upon, or it isn't real. As dc Talk once put it, "Luv Is a Verb."

Jesus taught that all the Old Testament laws and prophecies were about helping us to show our love for God and others in practical ways (Matthew 22:36-40). God expects us to demonstrate our love. But God does not call us to do what he is not willing to do.

"But God proves his love for us in that 
while we still were sinners Christ died for us."
- Romans 5:8

"We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us - 
and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods 
and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?"
- 1 John 3:16-17

How can you show your love for God or someone else in a practical way today?

How can you prove that you mean what you say?

Is your word your bond, or are the things you say just easy, empty, meaningless expressions?

I think we're all guilty of contradicting ourselves from time to time. But hopefully with time and with the Lord's help, we're also getting better at saying what we mean and meaning what we say on a regular basis.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Please comment on this post. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out or should have covered? Was something confusing? I want to know what you think!