Each one of us has heard the old adage about actions speaking louder than words. Most, if not all of us, understand the meaning. In order for words to truly take on meaning and give rise to transformation, we must not only speak but also act. For Christians, we are called upon to do more than pay lip service or, using the more modern phrase, “virtual signal”. It is easy to just say things to others or do the absolutely bare minimum in order to feel good on the inside. However, in order for our words to be meaningful to others, we must act out of love for one another.
John, in chapter three of his first epistle, writes, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.”
It is so easy for us to just say things or do very little in order for us to claim to love one another. In today’s world, many feel good about posting memes on their social media pages or sending out messages about the plight of the homeless or those who need help. Some will share information on how to donate to a charity or a cause, but they themselves may not have even given.
When I was younger, my father and I saw a homeless man sitting quietly. His clothes were in tatters and his appearance wasn’t that much better. My father gave me a couple of dollars and told me to give the money to the man. We weren’t a rich family by any definition of the word. My family worked hard for what we had. So, I took the money and walked over to the man. I introduced myself to him and said that I had something for him. I gave him the money and he slowly took it. His face lit up and he was very grateful for the generosity, but the most important part was that someone saw him as a brother in need.
That one event would remain with me for the rest of my life and would be repeated many times over. I have shared several of those stories with you in the years I have been preaching the Word to all those who would listen. In 2019, I shared the story of Rachel, a young lady in Augusta, Georgia, who was lifted out of sadness by the simple act of asking her name. People had ignored her or looked past her for so long. But, I stopped and talked with her and we shared a meal together and I made sure even her dog had something to eat.
It is so easy for us to feel good about sharing the plight of others in need through social media. We have become spectators of life rather than participants in life. We look out our window, receive messages or share a digital message. We live behind our computer monitors and our world is nothing but images in a digital world. We have isolated ourselves and done nothing to truly understand the needs of those around us.
We are content to live in our little caves and watch images flash up on the walls. The images become our reality. If this story sounds familiar, it should be. It is part of Plato’s work, Republic, “Allegory of the Cave”.
In the allegory, people are chained together in a cave facing a wall. There is a fire in the back and it casts shadows on the wall. The images on the wall become their reality. Those shadowy bits of images become their entire world and also their experiences. They sit in the cave and look at moving pictures on the wall and believe that they are experiencing life.
One day, one of the chained people breaks free and leaves the cave only to find that there is an entire beautiful world outside the cave. Instead of just living outside, the person returns to the cave to tell the others about the world outside the cave and that the shadows on the wall are just shadows. The others who are still chained and facing the wall believe that the freed individual had become blind after leaving the cave.
This allegory sums up our current situation. Life is to be experienced and lived. We shouldn’t be sitting idly by as the world passes before us like images in a movie. Christians, in particular, have a responsibility to love one another and show the world what true love really is.
Going back to chapter three of John’s first epistle, he writes, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
The love that John describes is true love for one another. That is the love that Jesus has for us. He died a criminal’s death on a cross for each of us. Although most of us are not called to make that sort of sacrifice for others, we should, however, be willing to make smaller sacrifices for others.
In chapter twenty-five of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us the story of the final judgment that we are all to face. On that day, the shepherd will separate the sheep and the goats.
To the sheep, the King will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
Then the righteous ones who have found familiarity with the King will ask, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
To the goats, the King will say, “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”
Life is more than a spectator sport or watching images on a cave wall. We should participate by demonstrating the love of Jesus daily to all and telling others the Good News. We shouldn’t be sitting in front of computers and posting and reposting memes and cute videos.
As children of God, we have a responsibility not only to God the Father but also to those around us. Don’t merely speak about the homeless. Help them. Don’t share a meme about those who have lost everything. Give to them and meet their needs. If you do these things, I can tell you that you are doing more than just meeting their physical needs. You are also meeting their spiritual needs. Through your actions, you are proclaiming the Good News for all to see. When you act out of love, you will be standing firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.