This one thing I know. I know that I am loved. I credit my parents for this knowledge – knowledge deep in my bones. When I fought with them, even when I hated them, I knew I was loved. When they yelled at me and even when they punished me, I was loved.
I am lucky and very blessed to have this as part of my background. I find it easy to believe God loves me because I have already experienced unconditional love. Love is the heart of my faith.
But how can I convince an abuse victim or a victim of neglect of God's love? Without a formative experience of love, how can I convey the truth of God's love to someone? Just telling someone God loves them has little effect. Why would they believe it when there is no evidence of unconditional love in their lives?
We hear words all day and every day. We are surrounded by meaningless promises. We go to a meeting at work where the boss tells us "your wellbeing is top priority", but in reality you know productivity is his top priority. We hear politicians make extravagant assurances we know they never intend to keep. We become cynical and jaded. Words quickly lose meaning in this modern world.
How can we communicate the truth of the gospel message to anyone? How can we actually have an impact on the people around us? What hope do we have of sharing the redemptive message of God's love and Christ's sacrifice with people who are used to hearing extravagant lies and false promises?
We are told to share our faith with our neighbours or co-workers. But often our timid attempts to share are rebuffed and scorned and we quickly learn that words alone have limited effect.
I understand why our church leaders are trying so hard to get us to talk to people about our faith: it's not something we do naturally. In our little church world we are safe. We are comfortable and getting the courage to share our faith with someone outside that world is incredibly hard, dangerous even. It opens us up to the possibility we will be hurt, rejected and mocked.
What if our community hears our words, looks at their lives, and our words don't match their experiences with God? Our words seem pointless.
What do we do?
We pray. We sing. We fast. We call on God to make a move. We demand supernatural miracles. We implore him for signs and wonders.
But what if we are missing something?
Sharing the love
We need to look at our communities, and the people in them, and really see that in their lives there is no evidence of God's presence. There is no evidence of his love and mercy.
They may feel alone or isolated. They may be angry, hurt or damaged. Their lives may be tough, depending only on themselves.
Maybe, as Christians, we are talking the talk, but not walking the walk?
The Bible says that the whole law is summed up as: love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew chapter 22, verses 37-39)
Here love is not a feeling. It's a verb, a doing word.
We need to start sharing our lives. Sharing our money. Sharing our time. Sharing our love with the people around us. We have to start asking God to help us to be evidence of God's presence.
We need to pray God will train us to show mercy. To be sacrificial, to care for the people who don't even like us. To help people who won't thank us. To show through our actions we don't think we are better than they are.
We will have to intentionally practice this, we will be pretty bad at it to start I expect, but with practice we will get better.
We must let God's love transform us as we work to transform our community. Our actions must match our words. Maybe then our words will have meaning.
Growing as we love
As we practice, and try to show love for others, as we grow we still need to remember we are loved too.
God loves us.
It is out of this love our words and actions must flow.
When we get angry with someone who doesn't want our help or we hurt someone we were trying to help we need to remember God's love and forgiveness. Even though we make mistakes we need to keep reaching out, apologise and try again.
As Christians we have evidence of God's love in our lives. Let's learn to show the love that he first showed to us.
Maybe then we can reach our communities.
Kara Greening trained in biology, works in chemistry and wonders about the physics of the Tardis in Doctor Who. She is passionate about exploring her faith and being wholehearted in life. She is married to a primary school teacher and they have two fluffy fat cats.
Kara Greening's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kara-greening.html