God’s Love: Balancing Doctrine and Action

GUEST POST BY AUSTIN DONAHOO

On Sunday, Luke preached from the text of 1 John 4. As he aptly noted, the text itself holds many hours of sermon-worthy truths that could be studied and applied. One thing that Luke personally decided to hone in on is the idea that creeds and deeds cannot be separated into two foci, but they are understood as intertwined. While this is very true, similarly to Luke’s sermon, I would like to show how both are needed in the Christian life and will give several practical ways on how to put these two spiritual aspects into practice.

Love Shown in “Correct Doctrine”

Currently, the Church lives in an age where a great number of congregations believe that doctrine should not be a main focus of their work. They believe they should focus more on Jesus’ work in individual lives and love for their congregation (this is important). This is understandable especially in the South with its history of legalism and an attention to doctrinal detail to the detriment of loving the least of these. Pendulum switches like this, while understandable, show a misunderstanding of the reason to teach basic doctrine. Basic doctrine about God is not taught as a buffer for pride or for pure collection of knowledge, but rather it is so the Church can accurately know our Trinitarian God and be able to guard against any falsehood that threatens to attack the truth of the Gospel. As Luke stated on Sunday, “Love is understood when we truly understand God.” As the Church grows in its knowledge of the Lord, there is a greater ability to love him and others.

Love Shown in “Correct Action”

As I stated earlier, for this article I separated these two ideas of doctrine and action, but these two ideas cannot be separated. For example, if someone has a correct understanding of how God works, they will not live out the Christian life in a way that correctly relates to God and his Gospel. Luke elaborates on this when he explains, “To know love is not just informative, it is performative.” The God of all creation loved his people so much that he sent the Son to die for humanity and the Spirit to indwell in those who are of faith. It is a great blessing to hear this truth and to give it space in our consciousness, but knowledge of this reality gives way to transformation. It transforms one’s worldview and their response to the things that happen in their life. They see a job not only as a way to make money, but as an opportunity to share the Gospel and love their neighbor. They see their family not only as a biological connection, but the most important opportunity to exemplify the love of God. Understanding the Gospel leads to the greatest paradigm shift anyone can experience and it necessarily leads the Church to be the hands and feet of God’s love in practical ways throughout the whole world.  

Practical Ways to Implement “Doctrine”  

  • Study your Bible and Pray: While this may appear to be redundant, you cannot understand God if you do not study his Word and respond to him in prayer
  • Read Widely: It is helpful to read specifically theological books but all truth is God’s truth. Read old books as well as new books. Read great authors like St. Augustine, C.S. Lewis, etc.
  • Learn in Community: Have consistent conversations with others (especially within your church community) about what God is teaching you.

Practical Ways to Implement “Action”

  • Serve your Family: As Paul stated in his teaching, serving the family is our first ministry. It is also the most important. God’s love is clearly shown in the workings of a family.
  • Serve your Church: Christians grow within a community. Make sure to be a part of that community by serving in areas that are able to use your gifts and talents that the Lord has provided.
  • Serve in your Community: Start with your neighbors. Find needs in your community and work to fulfill those needs. Be a light for the Gospel where you work, live, and play. Make sure to use your influence to the benefit of others and for the glory of God. 

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