Action, not just word
What does it mean to love? Like actually love? My understanding of the word has changed so much in recent years and the more I grow in my faith, the more it evolves and deepens. Love is action, not just word. I do believe love can be spoken, but not just by saying, “I love you.” Jesus obviously had a mission guided by love in His time on earth. He was on earth precisely because God the Father loves us so deeply that He sent Christ to be the physical manifestation of Himself, and display God’s love to the world. Jesus never explicitly, directly tells anyone that He loves them in Scripture. However, time and time again, He shows love through action. He also says things like, “as the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). Here, Jesus still does not explicitly say He loves anyone, but tells them an example of the love He has for them. He loves by example and by action.
This type of love is best displayed, in my opinion, through the example of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet shortly before He was crucified. In John 13:1-17, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as an act of service and love to them. Contextually speaking, to wash someone’s feet in this time period meant humbling yourself and taking on the role of a servant. Jesus took off his clothes, wrapped himself in a towel, and used the towel to wash the feet of the people whom He loved. He humbled Himself and loved through action.
He didn’t stand off from afar and tell people, “Hey, I love you.” He got close and personal with people in His time on earth. He broke bread with sinners. He stayed in their homes, washed their feet, and ate meals with the people He loved. He didn’t throw them a handout, give them money, or a pat on the back, and simply go about His life. He invested in the people He loved. He truly showed them that they were loved. What does this mean for us as believers? If the literal meaning of Christian is “follower of Christ”, should we not follow His example?
We cannot love passively
We live in a society where you’re encouraged to look out for yourself, not ever go out of your way for anyone, and only love those who love you first. This mentality is so contradictory to how Jesus lived and so detrimental to the impact we can have as Christians in the world today. This mentality has seeped into our churches and our theology and has damaged how we as Christians perceive love. As a people who are undeniably covered in grace and mercy and saved by the greatest act of love ever known, we should realize that God’s people–all of His created people, not just Christians–are deserving of our love simply because Christ first loved us. We should love boldly, through tangible actions, not empty words and gestures.
Christ could’ve told people He loved them and told them He would cover their sins, but He acknowledged that action had to be taken. We cannot love passively; we must actively take up our own cross and love others through the way we live and the things we do. We should seek to love as unconditionally as possible. We shouldn’t love to seek some personal gain, or receive recognition, but love simply because we were first loved by Christ. What does this practically mean for us?
This means understanding everything we have is from the Lord, and our resources are not ours to hoard for our own personal benefit, but they’re from the Lord and for the Lord’s use. We should use the resources we have to actively love people and provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ. This means giving our time to others as well. This means serving with the hands and feet God has given us. This means loving people hands on, rolling up our sleeves, and getting our hands dirty. This means spending time with the broken, the outcast, and the rejected. This means humbling ourselves, to the point of servitude. Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, and yet we are so comfortable never even getting close to that level of humility.
Be the hands and feet
It’s high time that we as the Church and the body of Christ embrace the humility and mindset of servitude we’re called to. I say all of this not to be overly critical or harsh, but simply to charge everyone, myself included, to strive for the high standard we’re called to. We are not called to sit comfortably in our pews on Sunday, drop our obligatory 10% in the offering plate, and then go about our lives the rest of the week unbothered. I encourage you, brothers and sisters in Christ, to of course, go sit in church on Sunday. Embrace that community. Yes, give your 10% tithe. But don’t forget that Christ went out to the people. He didn’t always wait for them to come to Him.
So every now and then, give an extra 10%. Give a love offering at church. Take a friend who may not know Christ out for coffee and love on them. Make a home-cooked meal for a family down the street who you may have never spoken to before. Find the outcast, the quiet, or the overlooked in your school, workplace or church and be intentional in fostering a relationship with them. Volunteer your Saturday at a local homeless shelter. Go on a mission trip with a local church. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let the overwhelming grace and love we as Christ followers have been so graciously shown dramatically change how you live and how you love.