Eliza, in the musical My Fair Lady sings:
Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars, burning above
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you’re on fire, show me!
Eliza is right. What really matters is not so much what we say but what we do. We can tell our children we love them, but if our work consumes us, the words matter very little.
The Apostle Paul was continually concerned that the churches he loved and served would not only talk about the Gospel but live a life that was appropriate and consistent with the Gospel. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27, cf. Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 1:11). Their walk needed to match their talk.
What would a life worthy of the Gospel look like?
- They would live in humility, recognizing that they were sinners saved only by the grace of God.
- They would live in trust, recognizing that the same Father who gave up His only Son would not fail to give them all other things as well.
- They would live in obedience, recognizing that Jesus was now the exalted King, Ruler, and Leader of the universe.
- They would live in unity, recognizing that the Father was saving a body of people and not merely individuals.
- They would live in charity, recognizing and valuing others above themselves.
- They would live in generosity, recognizing that they who had received so much cannot fail to give generously to others.
When we consider this list, we have to admit, what we do often does not match up with what we say. Why is that?
First, we act in large part based on how we really see things. Our view of reality has been shaped from our youth by many different experiences and ways we’ve thought about them. These are much more powerful than a mere profession that the Gospel is true. In order to change our way of acting, we need a lot of meditation and imagination that reinterprets life from a different perspective (see my post and the footnote on this point here).
Second, we don’t let the little things train us to live a life worthy of the Gospel. I remember working third shift in a cheese factory in Michigan after college. I would take an 80 foot hose and climb up the factory equipment to clean it from the top down, pressured to get the cleaning done in the few hours we had before the processing equipment would come back to life in the morning.
Inevitably, high above the factory floor, I would start walking forward with the hose and it would snap back because it got stuck on some of the contours of the machinery. It would make me so mad. I’d have to shut off the hose and climb back down to get it loose and then climb back up until it happened again.
Eventually, I realized, if I can’t handle these little frustrations, how will I handle big ones? It gave me a new perspective. I can’t say I never got mad, but it did help.
How we relate to our spouses and children, to the things that break in our homes, and to slow drivers are the little frustrations of life that give us the opportunity to train ourselves in living a life that is worthy of the Gospel.
The third reason our walk doesn’t match our talk is because the urgent presses out the important. If I asked you, what would be better for you to do today? To give an uninterrupted hour to your children or to spend an hour looking at things on your cell phone?
But which one did you actually do today?
I think most of us know what we should do. We can talk the talk, but when we examine our day, we find we do exactly the opposite. Why?
Because the notifications on our phone seem to have a greater urgency than our already occupied children.
Time has a way of slipping away, if we are not deliberate about it. It will take thought and planning to make our actions match our words.
This is our calling, that whatever happens, we would “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). It’s not just about what we say. It’s what do that will enable us to shine like stars in this generation as we hold firmly to the Word of life (Phil. 2:16).