The Reading: 1 John 3:11-18
“let us not love in word … but in deed” (v.18) RSV
Words are comparatively un-costly to utter. It is too easy to offer platitudes or good advice. It is something very different to get involved, to get our hands dirty and to put our hands in our own pockets. Our reading starkly condemns anyone who does not give practical help when they have the wherewithal to do so.
John tells us that however much we think we love God, we manifestly cannot do so if our hearts are hard and uncompassionate when face to face with need. Yes, we may agree. But what do we do when confronted with too much need; we haven’t got the wherewithal to meet all the need so how do we know which to respond to and which to ignore?
I believe the answer remains theoretical until we start to help. The main thing is to start to help one person, and then take it from there. Even Jesus did not meet the needs of everyone in Israel, but only those who came to him. Even then he might leave the crowd and go off alone to pray.
What we have to beware of is failing to respond at all to any need. James gives a similar warning when he writes: “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-17). If we are tempted only to say, “I will pray for you”, when in fact we could do something practical to help, then we fall into this very trap.
It matters not whether people are being good neighbours to us, as it is our privilege and our duty as followers of Jesus to take the initiative and be good neighbours to them. As we pray for someone or listen to their need, let us try to hear if there is something we should be doing to help them. God has done so much for us, what can we do for him?
Thank you Lord for those who have helped me, especially for your care for me. May I too learn to love others in a real and practical way. Amen.
1 Who would not offer something that cost him nothing?
2 What practical help did the Samaritan give?