What does it mean to be a Christian? part 4

As I write this, it’s Maundy Thursday. It seems a particularly good day to think about our third baptismal promise: to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed.

Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet Painting by Tintoretto

When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

If we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, then we need to remember that Jesus also loves us in word and deed. He loves us in word as he reveals the love of God to us through his parables and through the words of forgiveness given to sinners. He loves us in deed as he heals the sick and gathers the children to him. This is how Jesus proclaims the good news of God.

How shall we proclaim in word? One of my favorite hymns, “Hark, the Voice of Jesus Crying,” by David March, puts it this way:

“If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say he died for all.”

It’s comforting to know that there are many ways to proclaim the good news about Jesus. We do not need to have all the words, or be eloquent. We can use our words in whatever way we can.

We Lutherans like to joke about how shy we are when it comes to talking about our faith with others. But the truth is, it is not a joking matter. While showing the love of Jesus through our deeds is important, there are times when we must use our words to proclaim the good news. As baptized children of God we dare not dismiss the importance of this. Rather then give up because it’s uncomfortable, let us take time to practice with each other. Let us learn how to speak the good news in ways that are loving and promote good will.

As for our deeds, David March wrote:

“If you cannot rouse the wicked with the judgment’s dread alarms,
you can lead the little children to the Savior’s waiting arms.”

Again, we have many ways to love others with our actions. Not all deeds need to be gigantic in size or scope. Yet, all our deeds ought to proclaim the love of Jesus. Acts of violence and hate somehow fail to meet that standard.

Friends of ours were serving as Peace Corp volunteers in Russia. They asked for us to send a few books in English for their personal enjoyment. Somehow it turned into our congregation sending so many books they set up a library so the Russians could practice reading in English. The Russians asked why we would do that for strangers. Although they were not allowed to proselytize, they could answer questions. Our friends were able to tell the about the love of Jesus, even for strangers. A deed opened the door for words.

As we near the end of our Lent, I invite you to consider how you can live out this baptismal promise both in word and deed so that all may hear about the love of Jesus.

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