I love words. There is nothing I love more than getting caught up in an amazing novel. My husband can’t figure out why I would ever choose to spend dozens of hours reading when I could spend two hours watching a movie of the same story.
But there is so much missing from the movie, I tell him. You just can’t fit fifty thousand words into a two hour movie. The book always wins.
I’m learning that in real life, though, there are times when we need to let go of our need for words, or more simply, our need to say something. There’s a time for words and a time for deeds and I’m afraid that as Christians we often focus more on what we are saying than on what we are doing.
I am so incredibly tired of all of the arguments I see on social media regarding differences in theology.
I am so incredibly sick of listening to Christians make harsh judgements about me and other Christians concerning our parenting, our faith, our choices and decisions, and so on.
And I am so incredibly sick and tired of worrying about whether or not everything I say (or write) is “correct” (and yes, I put that word in quotes because I have been both praised by one Christian and attacked by another for the exact same thing).
So this is what I have come to believe; as Christians our words are strangling us. We are so busy talking about everything that we are forgetting the doing. And I don’t care how good you are with words, how great of an argument you can make, or how well you are able to discuss everything you know about the Bible if you are not acting lovingly towards other people, as well.
In Isaiah 58:3-4 God says to the descendants of Jacob, “on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
The people were trying to please God. But they were missing the point.
All of their efforts were in vain because they were not doing what the Lord had required of them. And what is it that the Lord required? “To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
That was the point. The people were so caught up in what they thought God wanted that they were overlooking the very thing that mattered. As Micah 6:8 puts it, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was (probably because they wanted to prove that they were wiser than Jesus) Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22-37-40)
So what do all of these verses mean for us today? Jen Hatmaker in her book, For the Love sums it up beautifully: “We overcomplicate the ways of Jesus. Love God, love people. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Treat people as you want to be treated. If you want to be great, be a servant.”
As a result of all of this, I have simplified my belief system. I don’t want to argue over theology anymore. I don’t want to judge others for their interpretations of biblical truth. In short, I don’t want to spend so much time talking about my faith that I miss the doing part of it.
This shift in my focus has had a huge impact on my life. When I stopped “overcomplicating the ways of Jesus” I noticed several things;
1. I worry less about what other people think.
2. I am managing my time better because I know what’s important to me (which results in less guilt when I say “no” to something).
3. I am more confident in my beliefs even though I know I am not super knowledgeable in many matters of theology.
4. Criticism doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.
5. I am living with intention and purpose instead of merely reacting constantly to what’s happening around me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love to write and I am still passionate about reading and listening to other people’s words. But none of it means anything to me unless what is being said is well-supported by loving actions that honour God and glorify His name.
Because if what we are saying isn’t revealing our loving God to the hurting people of our fallen world, what is the point of our words anyway?