Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll act like a Child of God

I used to frequent this particular site online where I could read and download information on a television show I enjoyed. It took me a little while to understand that there was a code of conduct expected among the users of the site, and the site owners had no qualms about banning users if they got out of line. I almost wonder if it were a joke at times because of the number of users they would ban. They actually kept a log where everyone could see who they banned by IP address and the reasons why. As you can imagine, people pleasing me did everything in my power to never be on their bad side.

Have you ever been in that situation where you have a code of conduct you need to obey or else face consequences. Some consequences are more dire than not being able to access a website. Depending on where you are, it could be demerits from a college, punishment from a boss, and so on and so forth. It’s true that sometimes codes of conduct are biased or full of prejudice or impossible to keep, but regardless of your opinion on the validity of that code of conduct, if you break it, that means you’re not a very good representative of that establishment.

R0C7A5M4WB_1440x960Today’s verses are Matthew 5:43-48.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This is one of those passages I’ve heard over and over and over again, to the point where I skim over it. But I saw something this time around that I hadn’t noticed before. Jesus says that by loving our enemies and praying for the people who persecute us, we will be acting as true children of God.

Whoa. Back that up. Think about that.

I’m a child of God. I believe in Jesus. I’ve welcomed Him into my heart and my life, and I strive every day to live for Him and Him alone. But you know what? I get angry at people who hate me. And I sure don’t pray for people who persecute me. So if what Jesus is saying here is true (and it always is), I can be a Christian but not be acting as a child of God.

Ouch.

But then, is it important to act like a child of God? Can’t I just say I’m a Christian and go about living life however I want? I guess you can, in theory. But what’s the point? Why would you claim to be a Christian if you aren’t going to live like one?

Saying you’re a Christian is easy. Living like a child of God is one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make. It’s easy to love people who are kind to you. And people who do nice things for you? Loving them is effortless. But what about the people who call you names? What about the people who go out of their way to say hateful things to you and about you, to your face or at your back? What about people who hurt you or who hurt the people you love? Loving those people isn’t just hard–it’s practically impossible.

Again, you can say you love them all day long, but love isn’t just saying a word. Love is doing. Love is action. Love is doing something kind in return for the cruelty your enemy does against you.

Jesus put such an emphasis on this because it goes completely against human nature, but this is a picture of what it means to live and act like a Child of God. It’s not just a title. It’s a lifestyle. And it takes strength only God can give. It takes supernatural love. So don’t hesitate to ask for it, because you’re not born with it.

If you want to be more than just a Christian, with Jesus’ help, you can live like a Child of God. Look for opportunities to be kind to people who hate you. Look for the chance to do good to people who do evil to you. Loving people who love you is nice, but loving people who hate you? That’s legendary.

Advertisements

True love lives in actions and not in words

In novel writing (and maybe other forms of writing), there is really one cardinal rule to producing an excellent story. Sure, character development is key. Yes, plot is essential. But this cardinal rule is more basic than anything else. It’s the rule of show, don’t tell.

Ever heard that? If you’re a writer, you probably have. If you’re not a writer, maybe it sounds foreign to you until you start thinking about the rules of relationships. It’s one thing to tell someone something. It’s something else to show them.

“Jack walked through the tall grass” is much less meaningful than, “The tips of the prairie grass tickled Jack’s fingers as he marched across the field.” See the difference? The first time, I’m telling you what Jack is doing. The second time, you see what’s actually happening. In writing, that’s the difference between showing and telling.

Frankly, relationships aren’t much different.

love-wide-wallpaper-1920x1200-008Today’s verse is 1 John 3:18.

 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Have you ever told someone that you love them? It’s easy to do. Those three words fall off our lips, often without any thought of consequence or commitment. You love your friends. You love your family. You love your coworkers (usually).

But what does it mean to love someone? Is it just something you say? Or is there more to it than that?

You can tell someone you love them and the treat them poorly. We see it everyday. What people say doesn’t match up with their actions, and that’s not the way relationships are supposed to work. What’s even more troubling is that we see it in the Church. We see it between brothers and sisters in Christ.

Did you realize that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him? Yes, you probably knew that. So then do you understand that if the person sitting next to you at work or at school believes in Jesus Christ too, that makes him or her your brother or sister? That means you are family. That means you are called to love that person with a love that defies explanation, and that love is what will make the world see us as different–as having something they lack.

Christ-followers are family. Maybe that’s why we feel justified in tearing each other apart so frequently.

You say you love the Christian sitting next to you. When push comes to shove, will your love stop at words? When that Christian runs into financial trouble or family trouble or any kind of trouble, can you sit still and keep saying you love them while you do absolutely nothing to help them?

It’s the same with our brothers and sisters around the world. We sit in our comfortable homes, living our comfortable lives, and we post on social media that we love and support our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. But what are you doing about it?

I know some people get frustrated with the concept of trying to prove their love to others, but I don’t think that’s what this is about. The truth is that love is an action word, and our culture tries to turn it into a passive idea. Love isn’t something that just happens. Love is intentional–or at least it should be.

So who do you love? Do they know? I mean, do they really know, or are they just used to you telling them? When was the last time you showed them?

If you love someone, whether it’s family or friends or coworkers or just strangers on the street, saying you love them isn’t enough. The difference between showing and telling when it comes to your relationships is who your love is about.

Is the love you feel about you? Do you tell people that you love them to make yourself feel better? Or are you willing to sacrifice your comfort or your security or even your life to do something for someone else?

That’s the difference. The truth about love is that it’s not about you. Love that’s about you isn’t love; it’s selfishness. Love that’s about other people? That’s real love. It’s not easy. It’s actually terrifying. But that’s the love we’re called to have, the kind of love that lives in actions and not just in words.