1 John 3:18: My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
I shared this Scripture with you last week as we talked about the fact that everything we do is tied to truth: we worship God in spirit and in truth, we serve God in sincerity and in truth, and we love in deed and in truth. I want to expound on the idea that LOVE is an action word, that it is all about behavior…indeed, we show love by what we do.
Jesus taught in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” All men will know that we are disciples of the Lord if we have love one TO another (as opposed to having love one FOR another). Having love one TO another really shows us the true nature of love – it is something that must be shown.
Jesus gives us more insight into this in two portions of scripture found in the gospel of Luke. One is in chapter 18, and it is the familiar story of who we call the “rich young ruler”: Luke 18:18-23: “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.”
With this young man, Jesus emphasizes the commandments that have to do with behavior: adultery, murder, thievery, lying, etc. However, in a very similar scenario, Jesus seems to give a different answer. Take a look at Luke 10:25-28: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”
Same question…different answers. Seems to be a contradiction, right? But take a closer look: In Luke 10, it’s all about the love. In Luke 18, it’s all about works. But since we know that LOVE is ACTION (you show love by what you do), Luke 18 must be speaking to MOTIVE and FOUNDATION. The “certain lawyer” answered correctly, that the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor. The “certain ruler” had it all wrong: he was not motivated by love, but simply by works. Jesus is not contradicting Himself in teaching the young ruler that it’s not about what you do…but your motive behind why you do it. If you love God and love your neighbor, you will, by default, obey all the other commandments that have to do with behavior, because you are motivated by the right thing…love. And if your motive is right, you will have no problem giving it all up, selling what you have, giving it to the poor, and simply following Jesus. But the young man couldn’t do it. A sad story. God will reveal your motives, the “intent of the heart,” to discover if you are truly pure on the inside. And if you are, that is when you will see God (Matthew 5:.
One of the most popular Bible verses of all time is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice the very first words: “For God so LOVED the world, that he GAVE…”. Love motivates you to give…to act…to do. Let us always love in deed and in truth. That’s how this world will know that we are truly His disciples.