1 John 3:18-20 “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things”
John is not saying that God does not want our words. Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. That’s not a hard picture to understand, is it? God’s grace and love come pouring into our hearts. And like water filling up a pitcher they come spilling back out of our mouths. We can’t help praying. We can’t help telling others. We can’t help worshiping. The words have to go somewhere.
But love is something more than words. “Let us love with actions and in truth.” “Do you really want to thank me?” our Lord asks. “Then why don’t you take care of each other. See that man over there, the one who looks a little shabby? Why don’t you feed him? Do you see that single mom who is struggling with her kids? Why don’t you give her a hand? Do you see that young person who just moved here, who looks alone and uncertain? Why don’t you go be his friend? Do you see that family that just lost their dad? Why don’t you give them a call, help with the lawn or the car, bring them a meal? Do you see those children I gave you to raise? Why don’t you turn off the TV, show some interest, spend some time together, help them with their homework?”
We have a thousand excuses for stopping short of putting love into action. I was busy with other things. It wasn’t convenient. I had other plans. I don’t have the willpower I need. I’m not very good at it. I wasn’t sure what to do. It costs too much. I have my own issues to deal with. I forget. I don’t get anything out of it. And much of the time, it just isn’t appealing. We just don’t want to. Love is a struggle for us, if we want to tell the truth.
But God sets our hearts at rest when our lack of love unsettles them: “This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things.”
God is greater than our hearts. Our hearts may be unsteady and undependable. Our love may run hot and cold. Thankfully our God is not that way.
His love doesn’t turn off when ours isn’t working. His heart continues to turn out acts of love, one after another after another, without considering our behavior first. Paul says it this way in Romans 5, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God is greater than our hearts because his love for us never fails. It never ends, it works even harder when we have been bad, and that is a truth that can set our hearts at rest.
Since God is greater than our hearts, he knows our hearts better than we do. As John says, “He knows all things.” When I look at myself, I see a bundle of contradictions. I can be kind and selfish just moments apart. No wonder Jesus warns us about judging others. When I look at my own life, it is hard to judge myself with any accuracy! But God has a window into our hearts that is superior to our own. By faith he already lives there himself. He isn’t distracted by what happens on the outside. He knows his own address. Sometimes I get lost trying to find someone else’s house. But I know where I live, and I certainly know my own house when I am sitting inside of it. God knows we belong to him, he knows our hearts belong to him, because he has made them his home, and he himself is sitting inside.
Set your hearts at rest, then. You can trust the Homeowner to know the house he built and bought and made his own.
(Picture By Louise Docker from sydney, Australia (My heart in your hands) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)