It is clear that our actions in the world are important to God. He calls us to act justly and to love mercy; to stand alongside the poor and advocate for those who have no voice; to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in both word and action; to be the hands and feet of Jesus; to bear fruit. Actions matter.
There are, however, many things that can drive our actions.
- Expectations of those around us
- Expectations we place on ourselves
- Expectations of what God requires of us
- The need to be successful
- The desire to make a difference
- Fear, anxiety, guilt or religion
Consistently, God draws us back to love being the essence of what should move us. There is a great difference between actions that flow out of love and affection, and actions that are driven by anything else. Paul reminds us of this in 1Cor 13:1-3.
God leaves absolutely no doubt in identifying that love is the key when it comes to evaluating our actions.
It really is a profoundly simple test that we can run all our actions and conversations through. Am I living out of a place of love? Love for God? Love for others?
So how do we move closer to this being our everyday experience, where our actions flow out of love?
Jesus gives us a beautiful image that helps us engage with the importance of inner devotion before outward activity when he speaks about the vine and the branches in John 15. He highlights that lasting fruit will flow naturally from abiding in Him.
It is my experience that far too often we place the emphasis on ‘fruitbearing’ rather than abiding; that our lives are oriented around activity rather than abiding in Jesus. This is true in my own life, and from conversations with many other Christians it seems that I am not alone – whereas Jesus places the priority on abiding. Fruitfulness is still important, but without abiding there will not be any fruit that lasts.
For me this is a beautiful illustration of how worship is intricately linked with our mission as God’s people.
Gathered worship creates a space where abiding in Christ is valued and practised. It draws us out of activity and into adoration. It is about intentionally moving into a posture that turns our affection towards Jesus and seeks to encounter the transforming presence of God in our lives and in the Christian community that we are a part of. But it does this in order that we might become carriers of this transforming presence into our relationships, our networks and places that we live. It is so that we, having been transformed by God, might then join with Him in his redemptive work in the world.
Our worship services are far more than ‘refuelling’ stations for individual Christians. They are a vital crucible in which faith communities are formed and where the understanding of our identity as the people of God is expanded; where we together encounter the presence of God and are re-imaged into the fullness of the Son; where our values, attitudes and priorities are aligned to the heart of the Father in order that we might shine like stars in this generation.
Miroslav Volf links adoration and action when he writes, ‘By aligning with God’s character and purpose in adoration one aligns oneself also with God’s projects in the world. By praising God who renews the face of the earth and redeems the peoples, one affirms at the same time one’s desire to be a co-operator with God in the world. Adoration is the well-spring of action’.
So let us enter deeply into times of adoration and affection and abide deeply in Christ. May we encounter God’s deep love for us in order that love may indeed be the driving force behind our actions. Let it be our heart connection with the Father that moves our hands and feet.