1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
John wrote a good bit on this theme, but he was only echoing what he saw and heard in Jesus. In this, love is like faith: it is internal, but it is demonstrated in action. Jesus famously talked about the connection between love and obedience. (John 14:15 etc.) He was speaking expressly about our love for God, but John, the “beloved disciple,” (John 13:23, etc.) is here extending that to our love for those around us, which Jesus also commanded. (John 13:34) It may be simply a matter of standard idiom, but I like the fact that the Japanese inserts “just” into this verse: “love just in words or tongue.” Words are important, particularly in the marital relationship, but words alone are empty. Some people, and indeed some cultures, choke on verbal expressions of love. That is very sad indeed. However, verbal expressions mean nothing if actions don’t back them up.
I was greatly blessed to be raised by parents who were verbally and physically affectionate, both to each other and to us their children. “I love you,” has never been especially hard for me to say. However, I well remember the very true words of a chapel speaker while I was in college. “Girls, sometimes when a guy says, ‘I love you,’ what he really means is, ‘I love me, and I want you bad.’” I have a gift for words, and am seldom at a loss for something to say. However, if my actions don’t back up what I say, I am a hypocrite. That is closely tied to my motivational gifting, as in Romans 12:6-8. I am very strongly Teacher gifting, but a major weakness of that gifting is the tendency to feel, “If I say it, that makes it so.” That doesn’t make it so! My words are true only as they reflect God’s truth, and my expressions of love are true only as they are reflected in my actions. God was the only exception to this, as He spoke the universe into being as it records in Genesis 1. I am as much in danger as anyone else of falling into “Do as I say, not as I do.” The Bible is remarkably unified in saying that doesn’t cut it. Many of the Old Testament prophets spoke strongly against people going through the motions and saying the right things without their hearts and lives reflecting what they were saying. In my teaching, I’ve got to come alongside people and show them how to do the things I’m teaching them. My Teacher gifting wants to just say it and be done with it! I still have plenty of room to grow, as a teacher and generally as a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate example of speaking nothing but truth, and then backing it up with His very life.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I deal with people constantly who say one thing and do another. Sometimes it’s angering, sometimes it’s disgusting, and sometimes it breaks my heart. Thank You for the lessons in what You experience constantly with us Your children. Help me remember my own weaknesses and failures and extend to others the patience and grace You have poured out on me, so that the lies of the devil may be defeated and people brought out into the liberty of Your Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:17) for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!