Formations 05.16.2021: Louder than Words

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have quipped, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” I bet you can think of any number of situations where that comment could come into play. Informed voters know when a politician’s campaign rhetoric doesn’t jibe with the votes they have cast or the lobbyists they have courted. Parents and other psychological profilers can gauge a person’s guilt or innocence based on their behavior and body language.

When a person’s words and actions don’t match up, you’ll rarely go wrong by disregarding their words and believing what their actions tell you.

By contrast, when words and deeds are in harmony, the message comes through even louder. James the brother of Jesus understood this and wrote, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:18). The point is that it’s far, far easier to demonstrate one’s faith when it isn’t all talk.

When Jesus sends out seventy disciples, he urges them to back up their words with deeds that will prove the words are true. In fact, he tells them to do the deeds first: “Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you’” (v. 9).

In other words, the seventy’s mission wasn’t simply to preach but also to heal: to proclaim a message but also to demonstrate God’s power and love in tangible ways.

Jesus doesn’t say the words are unimportant. On the contrary, word of the coming kingdom of God is good news that everyone needs to hear. But what good is the message without the works of kindness and deliverance that accompany it? To paraphrase James, we’re called not merely to talk about the kingdom but to show it to others by living it in front of them—and touching them with its transforming power.

Discussion

• What happens when a church’s or Christian’s actions don’t match up with the gospel they preach?
• If deeds are so important, why do we need the message itself?
• How might Jesus’ other instructions to the seventy help demonstrate the validity of the gospel message?
• How do these instructions challenge Christians today to show the gospel to the world and not just tell it?
• What might this passage say about how we measure success in the church?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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