A few months ago in church I joined everyone in singing a familiar old refrain: "I've got a river of life flowing out of me." You probably know the rest about making the lame to walk and the blind to see. I sang the familiar lyrics as I probably have a thousand times in my life (though not likely in the past decade).
Later, though, I began to think about what I had sung. Was it true? Do I have a river of life flowing out of me?
I have the Fount of Life within me, no doubt. The water is there . . . but does it flow out of me?
More honest lyrics might be any of the following:
"I've got a river of criticism flowing out of me"
"I've got a river of judgment flowing out of me"
"I've got a river of selfishness flowing out of me"
Really, that song could go on all night. The things that flow out of me are endless, but unfortunately, not a lot of it is Life.
In the past few weeks, I've tried to be conscious of that, and another truth has taken hold along side it. How should people know that I'm a follower of Christ? Because I wear a cross necklace? Because I don't smoke, get drunk, or hang out in night clubs? Because I don't swear? Because I don't gossip? Lie? Cheat? (Note: These are hypothetical examples, not necessarily fact-based.) What should be the defining thing about me that tells people I'm a Christian?
John 13:35 answers the question: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if ye love one another."
When was the last time you heard someone say, "Oh, she must be a Christian. She's so loving?" We have become so defined by what we oppose that we have entirely lost what we are supposed to be for.
Jesus didn't oppose much. Except hypocrisy. And judgment. And pride in one's own works.
Jesus was for us. He loved. Everywhere he went, he loved. He healed, He delivered, He restored. And in case we might miss the point, He spelled it right out for us: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul; this is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:38-40)
So many things He could have said were most important, but He knows that all the outward deeds, the works, the performances spring from the one place: our heart. Until our hearts are filled up with His love, none of the rest matters.
Let's be people who are known for what we DO (love) rather than people who are defined by a list of things we don't do.
I don't know about you, but I want a river of life to flow out of me. That will happen when I care more about demonstrating Christ's love to everyone around me than about making sure they know what I'm against.
"A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34)