I’ve been stuck in 1 John for a while now. I read it on my phone as I’m getting ready in the morning. (I think, now that I’m not in my teens or early 20s, I like it when John calls his readers “little children”. Just kidding…mostly.) I’ll try to read something else, but I just keep coming back to 1 John. I love John’s writings because he keeps it simple. Yes, we need the grand doctrine and theology written by Paul (but as a technical writer I have to say, the brother could have used an editor). And yes, Peter hits on some big points that are critical for our growth in faith But, I think that John got it when Jesus said it all comes down to loving God and loving each other.
Seriously, why do we make this so complex?
It truly is simple. As the children of God, we are to love one another. When I hear John describe our call to love, it’s like breathing.We are supposed to abide in love. Love in (from God), love out (to God and others), love in (from God), love out (to God and others).
But not just a superficial “I wish you well” sort of love, but a deep resounding “take action” sort of love. As John puts it in 1 John 3:18,
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
I think for far too long I have hidden behind the phrase “I’ll pray for you.” It’s not that I haven’t meant it. It’s not that I don’t pray for others I know are in need. (For those of you who are like, wait, she totally told me she’d pray for me! I totally do. Promise.) But often that’s where it stops. Somehow “I’ll pray for you” ends my obligation to get involved or to do more. And I know that prayer is powerful. We know that our struggle is not against “flesh and blood”. Prayer is a critical aspect of our walk with God and to seeing needs answered. But stopping there can’t be all we’re called to do. It can’t be the end of our “obligation” as Christ followers. We have to move beyond prayer to love “in deed and truth.” We have to get involved. We have to do something.
I’ve recently been challenged with the idea that if everyone is praying, but no one is doing something, how will God answer others’ needs? I mean, the truth of the matter is that God uses us in most cases to answer needs. He makes us part of the solution. He mobilizes us with His love. Yet, so many times we walk away with our promise to pray.
And then I read 1 John 3: 17,
7 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
And recalled James 2:14-17,
14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Basically, God wants us to be the answered prayer.
So I’ve been trying to be open to the opportunities to be the answered prayer. And, with eyes and ears (and hands) open, I have encountered opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to answer prayer, to love in deed and truth. It’s as if someone turned on a switch and now I see. And I’m experiencing this crazy love that I could never imagine, because God is allowing me to be a solution to someone’s prayer. I realize that God won’t use me every time, but He can’t use me at all unless my life is open.
What if the Church…
On the way to work the other day I was really dwelling on this thought. There’s nothing special about me. I mean, really. I know a lot of people who love in deed and truth. Personally, Evan and I have seen unbelievable sacrifice and encouragement that has been our own answered prayer. I know that many people find beautiful ways to love others as Jesus calls us to love. But what if the Church – yes, the big “C” church – what if the Church was truly mobilized to love in deed and truth? What if we decided to do something as evidence of our faith? What would the Church look like to the world? Because currently, we look like pretty powerless. We don’t look like family. We don’t look like love. But what if we were to go beyond “I’ll pray for you” to “How can I help?” What if the Church stepped up to fight poverty, injustice, to love the broken, to heal the wounded, and to fill-in-the-blank? What if we were willing to do what it takes to love on that level? I know this raises the bar on my own life. It certainly would be a difficult, narrow gate.
But doesn’t that sound like a path worth trying?