Lately, a common saying has been whirling around in my brain. As I drive by stretches of political signs that clamor for attention, as I’m bombarded with opinions on social media, and as I hear people arguing on television, all I can think of is that tired old cliche: Talk is cheap.
Merriam-Webster defines cheap as “depreciated in value,” “of inferior quality or worth” “contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities,” and “gained or done with little effort.” Doesn’t that sum up the nature of the chatter currently surrounding us? Signs that divide. Words that slander. Voices that interrupt. The noise is loud and prideful and the talk is cheap, cheap, cheap.
It can be hard to know how to conduct ourselves in such charged times, when everyone has an opinion and we are expected to choose sides. We are expected to add our shouting voices to the noise and make a stand, lest we appear apathetic or uninformed. But to what end? Do our Facebook posts really change anyone’s opinions? Do our debates and rallies and lawn signs actually lead to the betterment of our country and communities? Or does it only fuel the fracas?
The world tells us we must vote certain ways, stand for certain movements, and use certain language if we want to show that we care about the greater good. It says we should show our love for others by flaunting our opinions on our clothes and our bumper stickers and our Instagram stories.
But here’s some better advice: “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and truth” (1 John 3:18, CSB). See, the nature of talk is that it is easy, and it’s often not entirely truthful. For example, it is easy to stick a sign toting equality on our front lawns, but it’s much more difficult to actually treat those we disagree with as though they, too, are made in the image of God. Or it’s easy to hit “like” on a social media post, but it’s much harder to show someone we like them by serving them in some way. To say we love our neighbors is one thing. To show them is another thing altogether.
Why does it matter if we actually love those around us? Well, John also says, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14, CSB). So when our words say that we love others but our actions do not, we are walking around like corpses. We are only shells of the people God created us to be.
How are you feeling today? Have you put so much effort into making people think that you love your neighbor that you’ve forgotten to actually love your neighbor? Do you feel like a hollow and hopeless corpse, searching for something that will make you feel alive? Has all this talk left you feeling cheap?
If so, there is a way to come alive: It is to truly love our brothers and sisters. And we can’t do this through words and speech. Putting it into action is the only way. “This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6, CSB, emphasis mine).
Notice how we’re not commanded to say we love others? Or to proclaim our opinions on social media? Or to vote for a particular political party? We are commanded to walk in love. Because love is an action. And actions require so much more of us than words do. They require us to dedicate precious time. They require us to think ahead. They require us to make ourselves vulnerable and to make sacrifices and to make an effort. Actions demonstrate the true posture of our hearts, and only a heart truly postured in love would be willing to devote itself to others in this way.
When we love others with our actions, we serve God. And when we serve God - that is when we come alive.
The world tells us to speak up and add our own opinions to the dialogue. But if we try to convey our love through words and speech, it will only be drowned out by all the noise. If we convey our love through our actions, however, it will shine through the chaos like a rare and valuable gem. Love in action will convey a message that no Facebook post or lawn sign ever could.
So, let’s start walking in love rather than talking in love. Let’s turn love into an action word and, in doing so, begin to come alive in Christ.