I can still see him standing there saying those four little words. A simple sentence with eternal implications that I wasn’t old enough to truly understand. I can feel the passion as he would point at us with his thumb, his fingers curled, emphasizing the first and last. He would look us each in the eyes with the unspoken demand that we obey this commandment. “Love is an action!”
Of course it wasn’t the only lesson he ever taught, he was a Sunday School teacher, he taught thousands of lessons. He was a deacon in our church, well-known in the community, influential in our sprawling farming community. He would also be scoffing at how typing this, and any other time I write about him, makes me dissolve into a weeping mess for a few minutes. He would tell me to get to work, but that’s another lesson he taught, equally as passionate.
The work that he would tell me to do, simply: love. Because it is an action, not a feeling. It seems that I’ve encountered the word love more often here lately. Those in-your-face God moments calling you to do something you don’t feel like doing. It has become an established theme over the last few weeks. I’ve experience another routine shift throwing me, again, into formulation and reconciliation of a new reality. This time, stay-at-home-wife-and-mother-for-the-summer.
Just like Mrs. Browning questioned, I find myself asking, How am I loving my people? I know she was talking about feelings and romantic love, but I wasn’t feeling much love (romantic or motherly) scrubbing the soap scum out of the neglected bathtub during that musing. I really wanted to know how to apply the meaning that my grandfather so intensely taught to his people.
“Love is an action!”
Peter wrote to his people, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” He is referencing Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs”. This simple sentence is sandwiched in between two others that are explicit in their meaning that our words have the power to bring life or destroy.
James, at the conclusion of his power packed letter to the scattered Christians said this: “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” This message was so important that he saved it for the last sentence! The last words that his people would hear being read to them: Love others by using words in faithful prayer to God.
Both groups of people would have instantly recalled the passages from the Ketuvim. The men and women would have memorized those scriptures as children. These words would have brought to mind the association of the words they spoke and the eternal consequences if not used wisely.
Jesus said to his people “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”. When we choose to fill ourselves with God’s love, that love will flow outward and give life to others whether it is using our words for faithful prayer or acting out our love to meet the needs of others.
I came to an epiphany in that bathroom. I had the fan going, I’m sure it wasn’t the fumes. The best way for me to love my people isn’t lecturing and “tough love” in an attempt to fix their flaws, but to fill the gaps with my strengths and allow them to do the same.
How do you love your people? Do your words bring life?
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.