Actions don’t speak louder than words. They must be used to interpret words. If you want to know what someone means by what they say, watch what they do.
If I told you that this thought didn’t agitate me for some time, I would be lying. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it has changed the way I think about and live my life. The idea that it doesn’t matter what I say or even think about someone else when it comes to their judgment of my character worries me. It worries me because I grew up believing that I could judge myself by my intentions while judging others by their actions. And for some reason, I know I’m not the only one (thanks Sam Smith).
Judging by my performance thus far, I would consider myself a reasonably good Christian person. However, I can’t help but make up my mind about someone based on the way they act towards me, no matter how ‘good’ their intentions may be. And I don’t think that makes me shallow either, so long as I judge myself by the same standard. The problem that I have, is that I don’t judge myself by the same standard. Perhaps you can relate.
It’s not something we do on purpose, but for whatever the reason, we like to think that our intentions exclude us from being judged in the same way we judge others. The problem is, presuming my opening statement has some merit to it, our intentions don’t matter if our actions communicate something different.
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A prime example of this for me is a church that says they want to reach the lost and then runs programs that must be endured rather than enjoyed. Or a Christian who says they love others, but follow suit from the cheeky priest in the story of the good Samaritan who neglects the needs right on their doorstep.
I want to be clear that I am not advocating a righteousness by works mentality. What I am saying is that when our actions communicate things different to what we say we value, we run the risk of becoming a part of the ‘brood of vipers’ that crucified Jesus. If we say we value love but our actions don’t affirm as much, then other people are justified in thinking we are hypocrites, or worse, that we don’t actually value love at all. That is a scary thought to me.
Another scary thought is that it is no-one else’s responsibility to decide for us what we value. It is up to you and me to live in a way that is conducive to the values we profess to have. If we want the respect of our community then we must live in such a way that others can see just from our actions that we are followers of Jesus.
I want to put extra emphasis on the thing Jesus says will be the distinctive feature of His followers; LOVE. We must love so well that the world around us notices. We must be love with limbs and a heartbeat. We must be a people committed to personifying love, not just talking about it or ‘valuing’ it. I think John Mayer was right on the mark when he penned the line ‘love is a verb’ because it is more than a value or a fun topic to discuss. And while love is undoubtedly the defining reality of the Jesus follower’s mentality, it is just as much a distinguishing factor for their lifestyle.
I made the picture on top of this article my wallpaper on my computer because it is a daily reminder for me that love is not just a value, it is a verb. I want the defining reality of my actions to be love and I pray the same for each of you.
May we not just value love or think in a loving way. May we BE love.