It seems like God is hitting me over the head with a message recently. Following Christ and sharing His love is so much more than words – knowing words, memorizing words, and studying words.
While I think it’s important to read, study, and understand the Bible, I think it’s so much more important to put these teachings into action – into following Christ with our hands and feet. This message has been hammered home in a few different but obvious mediums.
First, I was catching up on my blog reading on Saturday morning when I came across this video in a blog post by Ryan Tate at Discipulus. In the video, Francis Chan shares some simple but obvious thoughts about discipleship – what it is and what it is not.
What’s up with equating “Bible study” with knowing God anyway? Wouldn’t it be a horrible thing if we studies the ones we loved instead of bonding in deeper ways by doing things with them? I’d never want to get married to a girl no matter how much I studied her. I’d rather take her sailing or fishing or eat cotton candy with her on a Ferris wheel. I don’t think knowing what her name means in Greek is going to help me love her more. In fact, they have a name for guys who just study things about a person they like but don’t do anything about it – they’re called bachelors.
So I started getting together with the same guys each week and instead of calling it a Bible study, we call it a “Bible doing.” We’ve been at it for fifteen years now, and I’ve found there’s a big difference between the two. At our Bible doing, we read what God has to say and then focus all of our attention on what we are going to do about it. Just agreeing isn’t enough. I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with Him.
Finally, I was in church on Sunday morning when our guest pastor, Paul Williams, asked the question in his sermon – “What if we loved our neighbor as ourselves?” In Paul’s sermon, he used the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to point out that anyone and everyone is our neighbor. Then he used the story of the Rich Young Man (Matthew 19:16-30) to remind us that we’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and part of this is learning to love ourselves. Finally, Paul turned to Matthew 22:15-40. In this passage, the Pharisees and Sadducees are having a conversation with Jesus. (These men were known to have the Bible (The Old Testament) memorized knowing every single law that was supposed to be followed. At the end of this passage, Jesus answers questions thrown out with a famous passage, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter how much we know about the Bible if we’re not loving God and loving others with all we’ve got.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Three times nailed over the head in a matter of 24 hours. Do you think God was trying to tell me something?
The truth is I grew up in a pastor’s family. I was known as the Bible geek in my freshman English class for knowing all the answers to the Bible questions. I’ve even prided myself on the knowledge I’ve gained and retained along the way. Knowledge is okay (and is important for maintaining a sound doctrine and for reminding us of Biblical truths and standards), but action is even more important. James states it well:
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
I get so tired of all the political back and forth at this time of the year. One side is trying to find the candidate who is the most Christian. The other side is trying to find a government who will fix everything and create programs for our neighbors. Wouldn’t it be a different world if Christians actually stepped up and loved their neighbors with action and not just words. I think this is a challenge for all of us – including me. And that’s how I’m being stretched right now! I want my faith to be more than words.
How about you? How are you loving your neighbor? Is your faith and love for others based on words or based on action?