The other day, I was working in the office, and my wife called to see how I was doing. At the time, another colleague or two was also in my office, but they were understanding enough to let me take the call from home (which, of course, was more important). And like most calls with my wife, I told her that I loved her. After completing the call, I told my co-workers that they now knew my “secret”: I love my wife.
They laughed, but they also understood that this was meant in a bit of irony. Of course they expect that I love my wife: I talk about her (and my kids) to others at work, make the effort to spend time with her, and do other things to show them that I love her. It’s not really a secret. My love for my wife isn’t just something I said at our wedding, but is something for me to demonstrate regularly1.
In the same way, if we love Jesus, that should be reflected in our actions. If, after spending some time with us and observing our actions, we tell someone that we love Jesus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. Jesus was pretty clear that this is the expected outcome:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 14:15 NASB
And, see this example from the writings of Jesus’ apostle, John:
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:18 NASB
Living for Jesus is more than just a statement, it involves action.
Still, we should probably explain ourselves from time to time. In the illustration above, had my previous actions given a different impression to my co-workers, they might have thought that I was professing my love to someone else on the phone. In the same way, performing “good deeds” can be attributed to many different motivations, like pride or our public image. There are those who do not love Jesus who still sometimes obey His commands, whether because of their God-given conscience directing them, due to social pressure, or because they think that it will get them into God’s favor.
As a result, I think that it’s appropriate for followers of Jesus to explain why we do what we do. Without an explanation that we are demonstrating that we love Jesus by keeping His commandments (as best as we can, with God’s help), our actions could be explained away by other motivations. When that happens, if someone thinks that we are following Jesus’ instructions so that God will like us, or because we think that we are better than them, there’s a risk that the observer will be drawn farther away from the rescue that God offers to them through Jesus.
This is how I imagine the verses that talk about doing things “in Jesus’ name”. We can do noble things, sacrificing our belongings and our selves for the good of others, but if we do it for reasons other than our Savior, the glory stops with us. Sometimes, I think that doing good needs to be formally accompanied by giving credit to Jesus as our Lord (and perhaps as our example).
And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
Matthew 18:5 NASB
As I suspect my wife may tell you, even if I love her and show that to her (and reiterate it to others) regularly, it’s still good to hear it spoken from time to time. May it be no secret that we love Jesus, both through our actions and our words.
- Still, I’m far from a perfect husband. However, I try to at least make an effort, and to pay attention. The worst part is probably knowing enough about what a good husband looks like that I can recognize my failures! ↩