Links Daily Devotional

The Match of the Millennium

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

One of the great things about sports is the rivalries: Yankees vs. Red Sox, Celtics vs. Lakers, Duke vs. Carolina, Auburn vs. Alabama, Ali vs. Frazier. The list could go on and on. Every sport and every era has them. Spanning the last few decades in golf we have seen the media jump on rivalries from Jack vs. Arnie to Tiger vs. Phil, and they often transcend the sport.

There’s another rivalry that I’ve begun paying attention to that that offers much less fanfare, despite having many critics. I guess you could say that it’s a rivalry that has been going on for quite a long while, many centuries in fact, and most of us are a part of it today. Christianity happens to be the arena for this tremendous competition. The matchup is between your head and your heart—or you could say “what you intellectually believe” vs. “that which you give your life to.” For the sake of our sports analogy, we’ll say that it is Joe Believer vs. John Doer.

Joe Believer is big and strong, and even though he carries a few extra pounds because he doesn’t like to practice, he uses his size and precision to champion knowledge and sound theology. Joe is quite obnoxious, but he has created a style that is very popular and has many followers, for it is built on self-preservation, favoring those with insider knowledge. Joe has elevated certain pieces of Scripture while omitting and overlooking others, but that’s only because other “good Christians” have before him. Mr. Believer has built his doctrine around that which is easier to say than to do—things like the Apostles’ Creed (which interestingly does not include the word love), which are centered on the “beliefs” in which he has put his intellectual faith.

Then, you have the undersized John Doer, who is smaller, leaner, very fit, and never gives up. John is unassuming, humble, and meek, so he’s much less praised despite having never lost a match. He accepts his just reward each time and then he goes right back to doing what he knows to be effective, even though it’s hard. Mr. Doer simply focuses on loving others. He meditates on and delights in Scripture daily, not out of obligation but because he sees it as his nutritional source, his daily bread. He is as knowledgeable as Believer, maybe even more. But he just doesn’t lean on parts of it for his offensive strategy; rather, his game plan is built on the simple but really hard to live out greatest commandment. He asks only one question, “What does love require of me?” John amazingly does it not just when it is convenient, but all the time. Doer just imitates what Jesus has already shown him how to do, and that’s his focus.

The theme of Jesus’ ministry was love, directing us toward devotion to others, humble service, etc., and when he challenged people it was most often over their religious piety that was anchored only in beliefs. I’m afraid that most of us would be on the opposite side of Jesus in the Match of the Millennium, because we riding the more popular Joe Believer bandwagon. “Christians” are often content to believe something rather than to do something; thus, substituting devotion for action. In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul challenged the believers in Corinth by writing “if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” …Nothing?

Certainly what you believe matters, but Paul recognized that what we believe is meaningless if we don’t put some motion in our devotion, and Jesus called us to do some very hard things. Unfortunately, out of convenience, busyness, and opulence, many of us don’t ever put into action what he actually told us to do. If we are going to have an impact in this world, then doing is going to be what makes the difference.

At the end of your life, what would you like to have people lined up to thank you for: your beliefs, or the loving things you’ve done for them?

Trust me, nobody will question your devotion to God if you put your love for others into action—especially God! After all, loving others is how he said you can best love him.

Josh Nelson
March 23, 2015
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