Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Actions speak louder than words

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30 NASB)

We are taking a brief detour to take a closer look at the sign of Jonah. Our study yesterday left Jonah at the point where the sailors said, "This storm is your fault" and Jonah agreed, "Yes, it is." That point of owning your failures is a freeing place and can be a first step in healing. 

One of the problems I see is that we want everything to be "fixed" immediately when we confess our fault. That's not quite how things work. When I confess my sins to God, he is faithful and just to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). That forgiveness is immediate. Working through the consequences of my choice, my sin, however, is not, as Jonah soon learned. Those who suffer from my choices have to work through the consequences of my choice, as well.

The sailors had three very pointed questions for Jonah. The first was, "Who are you?" In light of his prodigal attempt at escape from God, Jonah gave a surprising answer. "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land."

That answer shocked the sailors. "If that's who you are and the God you fear, why would you try to escape from Him?" Jonah had no answer. 

Their question is one the world asks us as believers on a daily basis. If you believe what you say you do, why don't your actions match up? Indeed. It's something we will likely struggle with until we enter eternity. This business of obedience has always been hard for us as humans, but it has never been optional. 

If we believe what we say we believe, our actions must match our words. If we believe that the words of Christ are truth, we must forgive those who hurt us, care for the poor, pray for our enemies, love our neighbor as ourselves. We must do what Jesus said to do. 

If we do not obey, our failure says something about our belief, doesn't it?

The third question the sailors asked Jonah was equally probing. "What does this mean for us? What should we do?" The world asks the same question of us as believers. "If your actions don't match what you say you believe, what do you expect of us?" 

It's a scary thought. When the world looks at those of us who claim to be Christian and find that our actions are no different from theirs, it's no wonder that they question us. It is no wonder that they doubt the validity of our faith and decline our invitation to join us. If we are to be light in a dark world, we must offer light that is recognizable by the lives we live. 

Standing on the deck of that ship as a storm raged around him, Jonah came face to face with the failure of his faith and his testimony, as well as the struggle of those who suffered with him. When questions came, he was sadly bereft of answers. 

For today, let's spend some time examining our lifestyle in the light of the what we say we believe. Do they match in a way that is recognizable to those around us? Can the world see that we believe the words of Christ by the way that we live? If not, what changes do we need to make? What does our choice of actions say about our faith? 

My mama always said, "Your actions speak louder than words." She was right. Let's be sure our actions say what we meant for them to say.