“Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth”
(1 John 3:18).

Today’s New Testament reading invites us to emulate Christ’s sacrificial love and express it in practical help. The duty of love must go beyond good intentions; it must be proved by deeds. The writer of this Letter asks us to do more than just talk the talk; we must walk the walk. The basis for practical love is given in the reading: “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”

The idea of practical love as is enunciated in our text has a parallel in James’ Letter. In this letter the writer discusses the relationship between faith and works and argues that faith without works is dead:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead (James 2:14-17).

In the same manner that faith without works is dead so love without action is dead-no love.

Part of our reading says “and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” This has to be seen within the context of expressing our love in deed and truth. We might not have to sacrifice our physical lives but we might be called to express our solidarity with people who in one way or another experience some kind of pain, hardship or suffering. To love in deed and truth is to identify in a meaningful way with persons who need to experience our ‘practical’ love. I invite you to keep in mind these two words, ‘practical love’, a love that shows itself in action. It is not the kind of love which says if I scratch your back you should scratch my back. It is a love which is self-giving and seeks at all times to respond in a practical way to the needs of persons. Paul alludes to this understanding of solidarity “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

The command to love in deed and truth brings out our responsibility to care for each other. There is no room for a naked individualism which only seeks one’s self interest. It brings into focus the concept of the body and the inter-relatedness of each part. If one member suffers and the members suffer. The directive to love in deed and truth informs us of a responsibility to our brothers and sisters from which we cannot shy away. The notion of responsibility is very clear in the Genesis encounter between God and Cain. “Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The idea of loving in deed and word is apt at this time in our history. The problems people are having at the present because of the harsh economic realities present opportunities to put our love in action. At this time of distress and agony for many, we must not wait until people approach and ask for assistance, we must go and seek those who need our help. Love in action rules out selfishness. The present crisis if not properly managed can cause us to become selfish and self centred. We might argue that given the present situation we have to look after our own needs because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We might contend it is a case of survival of the fittest. We must not use the present crisis as an excuse for not loving in deed and truth. As I indicated two Sundays ago, God expects us to be generous even with the little we have. We do not love in deed and truth for any reward, but we are assured that our good deeds do not go unnoticed.

Whenever we give we receive a blessing from God. So very often when we think of blessings from God we assume money, but this idea of blessing is equivalent to bribery. God blesses us in so many other ways. It might be a spiritual blessing of peace, joy, happiness, contentment, patience, understanding, it need not be a material blessing. When we conceive of God’s blessings in terms of money only we become frustrated and speak negatively of God.

We must not be afraid to love in deed and truth. When we so love we are blessed by God. This is what the writer means in the text “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” The psalmist reminds of this truth; “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.”

How can we put our love in action? By visiting the sick and shut ins and spending time with them; helping people with their bills, sharing a meal, easing people’s pain and burden where we can, denying our wants so that we can provide for the needs of our neighbours and walking with persons in their times of distress.

The real challenge of putting love in action comes when the situation requires us to love in deed and truth people we see as the enemy, persons who do not share our religious or political beliefs, people from another race, people whose colour differs from ours, people who our prejudice tells us are not our equals and the like. Yesterday’s daily reading addressed this issue: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” To love in deed and truth asks us to dismantle the barriers that have the potential to prevent us from truly loving our neighbours.

I would like to invite all of us to put our love in action. During this week try to identify someone or an organisation that needs our help and respond positively as we make a special effort to put our love in action. 

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