Oy, y’all. If you’ve been following me for any time, you may remember that every once in a while, I get annoyed by some popular phrase that people take too far. Today, I can’t quit thinking about another one: Love is action.
A quick Google search found all kinds of great posters, many of them Christian themed. Christian/Gospel artist Tauren Wells released a song about it in 2017, and a plethora of pastors and teachers have taught on it, many using either John 3:16 or 1 John 3:18 as supporting verses.
So what’s my problem with it? Simple. Our expectations.
1. Love is action
Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Love is, quite simply, action. And it displays itself in various ways that we don’t always acknowledge. Let’s look at a simplistic example that most of us can relate to: Pets.
I love my dogs. Sure, they drive me crazy on occasion, but that’s a different blog post. Most often, I show this love in practical ways.
- Feeding them or making sure they get fed every day.
- Spending time with them, petting them and allowing them to sleep while lying against me.
- Talking to them and making a point to look them in the eyes, which is a way dogs receive love.
- Taking them regularly to the vet for shots, well-checks, and required lab work.
- Purchasing additional supplements as needed, for example, to aid the joint health of my thirteen-year-old pup.
All of these actions show my love and concern for the canines under my care. And, with the exception of the shots and lab tests, they are all actions that my dogs, well … love.
2. BUT … Love is also non-action, or perhaps anti-action.
The list above is not all I do to show love for my pets. I also show them love by not doing some things, some of which they don’t appreciate.
I do not feed my dogs foods that are not good for them.
Well, not very often. Truthfully, they sometimes snatch a morsel that I’ve dropped on the floor or swipe a lick from the dishwasher before I shoo them away. But one of them is an older dachshund, so prone to back issues. The other one is a middle-aged chihuahua with an underactive thyroid. Therefore, both of them must watch their weight. And trust me, they don’t appreciate that any more than the rest of us do.
I do not bring more animals into the house than I can mentally, emotionally, and financially take care of.
Let’s face it. Dogs can be like toddlers who never grow up. The high energy ones require a lot of mental and physical energy, but even the older, lazy ones require constant thinking about, making sure they’ve been fed, can access water, aren’t too hot or cold, etc. That’s energy that I need to make sure I have available for the pets in my care.
I do not bring more animals into the house than my current pets can mentally or emotionally deal with.
While I occasionally dog-sit for a friend and while I really love her dog, I can safely say that my littlest pup does not appreciate my gesture or share my affection. If I’m completely honest, I’d admit that she strongly dislikes this other dog. My sweet little one is not good at sharing my attention, and she loathes that this interloper refuses to acquiesce to her queenly decrees. So I love my pup by limiting other dogs access to my house.
You could also add some basics to the list of non-actions.
- I don’t let my dogs run free, encountering untold dangers. They don’t always appreciate this, especially when kids are walking down the street that they would love to meet.
- Rides in the car are limited to times when they can actually be with me. Not taking them with me is sometimes hard, but leaving them in a hot car isn’t healthy and waiting confined for hours inside a reasonable-temperature vehicle wouldn’t be as pleasant as waiting at home.
3. Love can also be action you don’t see.
This is probably the one that most irritates me with the whole Love is Action mantra going around.
Think about it: Do actions only count when we are aware of them?
Do the actions of another that we may never know about this side of heaven count for nothing? Must we assume that because we don’t know that a person is showing us love that they actually don’t love us at all?
How many people have you prayed for? Did you tell them all? How many times do you think about someone, but don’t take the time to check in with them? How often do you pass a store shelf and see something that brings a memory of another to mind and a smile to your face, yet you never mention it to them?
The military life has brought me many friends and taken them off to other places. I don’t know where they all are or how to contact them. Does that automatically mean I don’t love them?
Spread love everywhere you go. ~Mother Teresa
Yes, love is often action—through words, gifts, acts of service, time, and touch.
While actions can indicate feelings, a lack of action shouldn’t necessarily determine that love isn’t present. Maybe it does, and maybe you need to pay attention to that. Or maybe, your perception is wrong.
My concern is that with far too many of us, the expectation of Love is Action is that the people we most want to care about us will actively pursue us, loving us in the ways we most receive love. And that’s selfishness, pride, and a lack of concern about others.
Instead, let’s focus where we are supposed to focus.
Yes, sometimes we need to make a decision based on the actions we can see. But often, we allow our perception of another’s actions to color our relationships.
Let’s love others the way God calls us to, whether it’s visibly with action and non-action or behind the scenes with actions they may never see. And let’s leave the judgment about whether another is loving well enough to God.
Years ago, a chance meeting nestled a nugget of a dream in two hearts. Over the years, both thought about their hour together, dreaming about what could have been. Is that enough of a start for love to blossom?
When Emma Foster’s family logging business runs into a cash flow problem, she comes up with a daring plan to reach out to a manufacturer her father turned down twenty years ago. She’d just prefer to deal with the owner of the company rather than his son who captured her childhood dreams back then.
Daniel Wilson never imagined he’d again see the girl who haunted his boyhood fantasies of brave knights and daring rescues. But when he knocked on a car window to offer assistance to the driver, memories began flooding his heart and mind.
Was God finally placing events in order so they could have their Dream Come True?