Facebook provides an almost constant flow of words of kindness, praise, and encouragement. As a praise junkie, I initially found these snippets of kindness like a piece of chocolate that one lets slowly melt in the mouth, so as to savor it as long as possible. The problem became that the candy melted and left me wanting more and then saddened if more couldn't be found. "Only 5 people "liked" my post, and no one wrote a personal comment." "But wait; 2 people said I was beautiful when I posted my latest picture!" At the back of my mind, a niggling thought kept trying to surface. It's all just words--easily said and with no real meaning. Sure, it's nice; just like a piece of chocolate is, but there's no substance. As I grew more dissatisfied with the artificial world I had begun to escape to, God called to mind a Scripture verse I had memorized as a children's song many years ago. It's 1 John 3:18 and says,
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
The Holy Spirit began to impress upon me the call to shift my focus from a tendency towards couch potato "love" to true love in action.
The book of 1 John focuses on how God loved us by sending His only Son to die in our place, making those who trust in Jesus' work at the cross God's children. Based on that understanding, as much loved children, the book teaches that we must also love others. True love almost always costs something, which is why Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35). From the early church forward, it is self-sacrificing acts of love by believers that impact the world for Christ. Why? Because that kind of love in action stands out against a back-drop of selfish pursuits.
Man's concept of demonstrating "love" is to first consider, "what's in it for me?" It's one thing to drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday morning to help a relative or friend move, knowing that they'll owe me one in the future when I might need it. It's quite another matter to take the same action to help a destitute neighbor with lots of "issues," whose only repayment will likely be trouble. Even non-believers will do the first, but oh how the love and mercy of Christ shines forth in the second.
Unfortunately, true Christians do still have a sin nature that beckons continually with cries of selfishness and laziness. It's so easy to fall into the temptation for couch potato "love"--you know; to merely type words in a Facebook comment box such as, "I'll pray for you," rather than to truly "carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). It's far easier to type, "Love it!" then to sacrifice some internet surfing time to demonstrate that love in tangible ways.
When Jesus encountered a hated tax collector who needed salvation, Jesus responded, not just with words but with action--"for I am coming to your house today" (Luke 19:5). When Jesus saw the hunger of a crowd of people, he didn't just wish them well and send them on their way; he fed them. When Jesus taught his disciples how to love others, he didn't just do it with words but knelt at their feet and washed the dirt from their grimy toes. When Jesus saw the lost plight of mankind, he didn't stand back in righteous judgment thinking how we deserved what we got but instead suffered and died on our behalf. Yes, love always costs something.
In my ministry, people frequently open up to me about the deep pain and tragedies of their lives. Being a broken person myself, I find such stories heart wrenching and sometimes overwhelming. If such is true of me, what must it be like for God who loves His people desperately and sees everything? No wonder God instructed the prophet Jeremiah to say,
Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for my virgin daughter--my people--has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow (Jer.14:17).
That compassionate God chooses ordinary people to demonstrate His love to those hurting and in need. He has chosen me and you, as deeply loved children to shine as lights on a hill. How? By the beacon of His love actively piercing the darkness of a wicked and depraved people lost in the darkness of sin.
As I've considered these things about loving in action and in truth, God has revealed to me numerous opportunities to live it out. Honestly though, the selfishness in me resists. Perhaps you can relate. The love of God must compel us though, not personal gain or praise from man. Our reward is yet to come. Who has God placed in your path that needs love in action right now? Will you join me in the instruction of Ephesians 5:1-2?
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.