Growing up, I was often told that actions speak louder than words. How we act shows what is truly upon our hearts more so than the words we speak. The love that is upon our hearts, and conversely the bitterness that is upon our hearts, speak in our relationships and lives through our actions and how we live in this world. This holds true in every aspect of life. Children are often much more likely to imitate the actions and attitudes of their parents than they are to take to heart hours of lecture. We need to live the life Christ called us to. We need to live into the love he showed for humanity time and time again. We need to imitate Christ just like a child imitates their parents. Our actions need to reflect the love that God has imprinted on our hearts.
One of the most important lessons I learned while growing up did not come from the words of any minister, adult, relative, or parent. But rather came from a lifetime of observing people near and dear to me. My father’s uncle was a good man his entire life. He was also a quiet man. He didn’t preach to us kids very often. He never admonished us or punished us when we were obviously out of line. But as I watched him in action in life, I saw a man who reached out and touched the lives of almost everyone in town. He lived into his care for others. He took good care of the mechanic who rented his garage next to his house. He took care of our family when my grandparents passed away. He took care of the town minister when his car broke down on the side of the road. He took careful care of the town cemeteries making sure that brush and weeds were always cleared away, lawns were mowed, and that headstones were mended when they were vandalized. If someone were in need, they could depend on him to selflessly take care of the problem.
This had a much more lasting impact on my life and the lives of so many others than any lecture on being a good person. Seeing God’s love in action molded me into the person that I strive to be. Our actions tell the world who we are; whether we know it or not. How we treat one another tells a whole lot about the character of who we are. How we live our lives reflects our faith, our values, and how God has touched us. If we claim to have faith, if we claim to believe and follow the teachings of the Bible, then our actions need to reflect that. What that means is that we keep our judgments in check. We keep our tendencies towards self centered-ness in line. And we start thinking outside ourselves.
We are called to see people, as just that, people: individuals with struggles and challenges just like we experience, people with imperfections, lapses of judgment, and capable of making some terrible decisions. We are called to see the world through the lens of love, just as Christ saw the world. We need to live into this life with the same confidence in the Lord as our Psalmist, who looked serious life challenges in the face and still reached out to those who threatened him harm with love on his heart. John Philip Newell once wrote, “It is through sharing our fragments of insight that we will come to a fuller picture of the one who is at the heart of each life”. And this is exactly what the Psalmist attempts to do by sharing with others his confidence in God and where he has gained such confidence. And we are encouraged as children of God through Christ to do the same. We are encouraged to share what we have known to be true about God with those who will listen. We are urged to “See what love the Father has given us, and that we should be called children of God”. And I would even take this further and say to have that love reflected to the world.
We see the love of God in our lives everywhere we look, if we know what we are looking at. So, where do you see God’s love in the world or in our lives. (invite the congregation to share) I see it in the laughter of children. I see it in the love of family and community. I see it in the blessings all around me. I see it in the way person can touch the life of another just by taking an interest. No matter how tough and challenging life might get, we can remember all that God has done for us and be confident that God is still with us.
We should remember God’s love of the past and be confident in his love in the now and in the future. Jesus did not intend for us to hold the love of God in our hearts and to ourselves. He intended us to use it to affect the world around us. He intended us to be the vehicles by which that love is transported from person to person. If we want to make a difference in the world, if we want to join in the discipleship of Christ, if our lives have been touched by the maker, then it is our duty to share that passion with someone else. It is our duty to allow for it to transform our lives in such a way that there is no denying that God’s love is present. We are called to be the vehicles by which God’s love is transported through the world. We just need to decide how we are going to do it.
 John Philip Newell, 21st century.
 1 John 3: 1, NRSV.
(Based on Psalm 4 and 1 John 3: 1-7)