Twitter is not my favorite social media spot. Being a rather long-winded person, I struggle with character limits. The platform lends itself to sound bytes and misunderstandings. While I agree with Shakespeare’s maxim, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” not all ideas are well-explained within 140 or even 280 characters. The effort to be quotable often leads to statements that are fallible.
I recently stumbled on a tweet that nagged at me. It probably wouldn’t have caught my attention, except that I hear this sentiment so often expressed:
“Being Christian isn’t about performing certain actions in or out of the church.”
Since when has being a Christian NOT involved action?
It goes on:
“What God desires is a loving relationship with His Son.”
It’s a bit contradictory: “Don’t worry about actions, just have a relationship!” How can you have a healthy relationship with anyone if you never do anything with them or for them?
What does a “relationship” with God require?
Consider a few passages:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
~ Micah 6:8, ESV (emphasis mine)
Those words—do, love, and walk—are verbs. Verbs are action words!
Someone may argue that love is a noun. Love is actually both a noun and a verb, depending on the context.
Someone might argue that this passage is under the Old Covenant, and does not apply to us. Just because something is said in the Old Law, doesn’t mean the same isn’t true under the New. Listen to what Jesus says:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
~ John 14:23-24, ESV
Jesus said, “if anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” Keeping God’s Word involves action. In order for us to have a solid, unshakeable relationship with God, we have to do what He asks.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
~ Luke 6.46-49, ESV
We show our love to God through our obedience—we spend time with God, we listen to His word, we value what He values, we seek to please Him and not merely ourselves.
If I say, “I love my husband,” and I feel like I love my husband, and I tell him how much I love him, but I never actually do anything to demonstrate that love, how solid will our relationship be? If I spend no more than a couple minutes each day with him, totally ignore his requests, and only focus on doing what I want to do, how is that love? How is that “relationship?” In such a scenario, there is no communication, no sacrifice, no forgiveness, no selflessness—we simply exist in close proximity.
“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
1 John 2:4-6 ESV
Someone might argue that this is somehow a legalistic viewpoint, so let’s be clear: we cannot save ourselves by the number of works we do. We could never do enough to cover our sins. Jesus’ blood is the only redemption God will accept. That being said, we cannot claim relationship with God while pursuing our desires to the exclusion of His.
There is a misconception that we have to feel love before we show love lest our behavior be disingenuous. My friends, love is not a mere feeling. Feelings are fickle; love is committed. True love does what is right regardless of feelings. True love seeks the best for the other. True love serves.
C.S. Lewis makes a similar argument in Mere Christianity:
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did… When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
“The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them; afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them”
Whether we are considering marriage, friendship, or God, real love requires action.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
~ 1 Corinthians 13.4-8, ESV
Are we insisting on our own way, or are we submitting to God’s way?
Are we bearing with our spouses, children, and even enemies or are we shoring up a dossier of wrongs suffered?
Are we loving only in word or are we loving in deed? God does desire a relationship with us, but a relationship cannot be confined to nebulous thoughts and feelings. Build a relationship with God by seeking to please Him, by doing what He wants.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
~ 1 John 3.16-18, ESV
This post originally appeared on Elihu’s Corner and was republished with permission.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com