“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3 v 18
This verse has been on my mind a lot recently for I think it does a good job of summing up one of the failures of my own walk with God and, if I can be so bold as to generalise, the church as a whole. We know that the essence of Christianity is love: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13v13) and we know the summary of all of God’s commandments: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22 v 37 – 39). And yet when push comes to shove then we are not very good at loving others.
Oh, we are very good with loving with words and speech! It is easy to say “I’ll pray for you”, it is also pretty easy to actually pray, but if that’s all we ever do for our friends then we’ve missed the glaring point of Christian love. Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for encouraging words, promises to pray, a cheerful word, a reminder of a bible verse, these are good and we should overflow with them. But if that’s the extent of our love then we have a problem. And that problem is that we are not truly loving.
Take the Lord Jesus Christ, he doesn’t just say he loves us, he doesn’t just pray for us, he doesn’t just give many encouraging promises to us (though he does all these things), Jesus also died for us. You can’t get more nitty gritty practical than that. As John writes a few verses earlier: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3v16). In fact, if you follow John’s argument the reason why he calls us to love with actions is this is exactly what Jesus did!
“Because Your loving kindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.”
Psalm 63 v 3
This is a pretty big deal. I'd even say that around 80% of my troubles in my walk with God stem from the fact that I am a functional unbeliever of the kindness of God. And it is a frustrating problem to have because it is decidedly illogical. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with how I came to realize that I don’t believe in the kindness of God.
Just under a month ago I was on New Word Alive (although it seems like several lifetimes ago for some reason) and I went to Tim Chester’s seminar called ‘You Can Change’. One of the interesting things he talked about was how our sin is always connected in with a specific area of unbelief about God. So for example if you’re the type of person to get really stressed it might be because you struggle to believe that God is really in control of all things. And as he said, it’s not that we don’t know the truth or in some sense ‘believe’ the truth but it’s that we act as though we don’t. The illustration he used was of going up to a Christian in a traffic jam who is losing his temper and asking him if he believed in the sovereignty of God over all things. That Christian would answer yes and yet by his actions would show that he really didn’t.