Our dog’s favorite time of day is right after the kids’ bedtime. Paco knows that’s when we relax on the couch, mug of tea in hand. He sidles up to me or to my husband and enjoys our belly rubs and ear scratches. We are predictable in our evening routine and when bedtime rolls around, I take Paco outside one more time before we all retire for the night. Since we live in a condo with no yard, this means leashing him up and heading down the sidewalk a ways.
From my seated position, if I announce “I think it’s time to take Paco outside,” he will open one eye and consider me, unmoving from his comfy spot on the couch. He knows what I mean, but I’m still sitting down.
If I say the exact same words from a standing position, he will sit up in expectation.
If I say it and take a few steps towards the door, he’ll hop down and follow me without needing to be called.
Clearly, my dog trusts my actions more than my words.
Live it like you mean it
“Actions speak louder than words” is a cliche for a reason. Words cost us very little, they are easy to toss around. Our actions are weightier. Our actions reveal what we really believe, and what values we hold.
I wonder if my planner, my checkbook, and my to-do list say more about me than my words. I wonder if what I do is in alignment with what I say.
Jesus says it’s our actions that determine whether or not we are in the kingdom of God. In Matthew 28, he tells the story of two sons. Their father asked them to go to work in the vineyard. The first son said: “I will not” but then later changed his mind and got to work. The second son said “I’ll go” but never went.
Jesus asked the crowd of religious people (the Pharisees):
“Which of the two did the will of the Father?” They said ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom ahead of you.’” (v. 31, ESV)
Using this parable, Jesus shows us that we can know all the right things to say, but if we’re not living like we believe it, we are not living in God’s kingdom.
How to live as Resurrection People
“HE IS RISEN!” we proclaim with an exultant cry on Easter morning. But do our actions say the same? How do we live like Resurrection People when Easter is over?
In his little book The Challenge of Easter, theologian N.T Wright argues that Jesus’ resurrection ushers in the first day of the new creation, as emphasized in John 20:1 and 20:19. And when Jesus appeared to his disciples in the evening of that first day, he said “Peace be with you,” indicating that the redemptive work of the cross had been achieved. Ushering in this new world order, Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit (echoing the breathing of life into the nostrils of Adam and Eve) and sent them out into the world as the Father sent him (John 20:19-23).
What does it mean to live in this new world, knowing that we have been saved and redeemed but not yet fully experiencing the new heavens and the new earth promised in Revelation 21? What does it mean to be Resurrection People, knowing that Jesus conquered death, but still experiencing death, sin, and brokenness in the world around us? How do we proclaim HE IS RISEN not just with our words, but with our very lives?
N.T Wright looks to 1 Corinthians 15 to answer this question. After an entire chapter of explaining Jesus’ glorious victory on the cross, Paul concludes with this:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1. Cor. 15: 58, NIV)
So we… get to work. We build on the foundation that Jesus has laid, and not on our own energy and strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. And we don’t build with wood, hay, or straw, but with gold, silver, and precious stones—work that will last because we do not labor in vain (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
N.T Wright states:
“…bearing God’s image is not just a fact, it is a vocation. It means being called to reflect into the world the creative and redemptive work of God. It means being made for relationship, stewardship, and worship—or, to put it more vividly, for sex, gardening, and God.”
This is true for us whether we work outside the home, or whether we are in the throes of changing diapers or homeschooling, whether we are retired or managing a large company. We are called to reflect the “creative and redemptive work of God” no matter what we choose to do. Wright goes on to say:
“Our task, as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to the world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to the world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to the world that knows exploitation, fear, and suspicion.”
This often looks like groaning prayer in the places where your particular discipline is in pain, Wright suggests, as we long for our ultimate renewal and liberation.
I think it also means that any action we take to reflect the work of God—no matter how small and how seemingly inconsequential—can mirror God’s love, trust, healing, and redemption. This work, these actions of ours, are not in vain. To live as Resurrection People is to work alongside the Holy Spirit in “reshaping the present world in the light of Jesus Christ,” as Wright so aptly puts it.
Any action we take to reflect the work of God—no matter how small and how seemingly inconsequential—can mirror God’s love, trust, healing, and redemption. This work, these actions of ours, are not in vain.Tweet
My dog’s behavior on the couch prompted me to reflect on the relationship between my words and actions, and the invitation is open to all of us—not to lead us toward shame and guilt, but to examine ways we can live out the truth we all declared on Sunday. My words proclaimed: “HE IS RISEN!” May my actions echo: HE IS RISEN, INDEED!