“It [the Church] must not underestimate the importance of human example (which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teaching); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In 1980, when I became a Christ follower, it was in large part due to the fact that I had experienced the love of Christ—in flesh and blood—through the lives of my pastor, my praying grandmother, and the other saints that made up the little church that I attended with my parents. The medium and the message rang true. Those folks weren’t perfect, but to me they were real—in their faith, and in their love. They were a means of Grace to me and through their example I encountered Jesus.
I'd rather see a sermon
Than to hear one any day.
I'd rather one would walk with me
Than merely show the way.
Actions speak much louder
Than all the words can say,
That's why I'd rather see a sermon
Than hear one any day.
(Bruce Carroll, I Rather See a Sermon)
There is no denying, that words (and sermons) can be powerful. Words are penetrating, transforming, and when sown in love—life giving. On the other hand, when words are offered in emptiness, inconsistency and without love, things like—disillusion, contempt and debilitating doubt rule the day.
The most justice-centered, mercy-filled, love-saturated theology is merely words until it is lived-out by the followers of Christ (the Church). Therein is found the authentic life and power of love—the amazing Grace. Even God knew that faith without works is just an abstract argument. It has to be about the life and love of Jesus—lived out.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, . . .” (John 1:14)
God help me (and the Church) to dwell in the world as you came and dwelt among us.