“Playing for Keeps”

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3.18 ESV)
God’s almighty and awesome power at work in those who believe, we’re told in the passage above. We have a new reality in our Lord Jesus. Paul is telling Titus (and us) that this new reality calls for a change, a real change. Does our life evidence this change?
As the song goes, “they will know we are Christians by our love. “ What sort of Christianity are you advertising? A nominal, in name only sort? Or one that displays the genuineness, authentic, real love?
When I was a boy, we lived in North Kansas City, Missouri, in the central US for a while. It was there I was introduced to playing marbles out on the playground in grade 2. Then we moved south to Arkansas in the middle of grade 3. And I was in for a shock. The first time I played marbles with the guys I lost a game — AND I lost the marbles. Those Arkansas boys played for keeps. Somehow our teachers in suburban Kansas City wouldn’t allow us to do that. Too many hurt feelings. Our small-town Arkansas teachers were in the long run kinder to us by not interfering. Life is for real. It is for keeps.
When it comes to our lived-out profession of our faith, are we’re play acting, instead of playing for keeps as Christians? Ligon Duncan, former pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, USA, put it this way: “A nominal Christianity, an in-name- only Christianity is not prepared to face the forces of the powers and the principalities and the encroaching pagan culture around us. It must be a Christianity professed with the mouth, believed in the heart, and lived in our daily lives. And that’s what the Apostle Paul is saying here. But interestingly, he is especially focusing on the manifestation of the reality of our
trust in God, the manifestation of true religion that has been wrought in our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit, especially in how we live with one another.”
This love also extends to our unbelieving neighbours as well. Welsh preacher Geoff Thomas challenges us: “A Chinese Christian noticed how a part of the bank of his paddy fields was being broken in the night by a neighbour and the water flowed down into the neighbour’s rice field. He was laboriously pumping water into his field only for the neighbour to steal that water during the covering of darkness. This happened four times, and so he went to see another Christian in his church and he asked him what he should do. Should he go and talk to his neighbour? The other Christian said to him ‘We have to do more than simply that which is just and right’ Those words stuck in his mind and so the next morning he got up earlier than he normally did and first of all he pumped water into his neighbour’s field before he pumped the water into his own field. He did that for a week and throughout that time no breach was made in the banks of his rice-field. His neighbour was astonished at his behaviour, and made inquiries about this man and his faith. In fact, it drew the man to believe in Jesus Christ. That is bearing one another with love and showing forbearance. You give your time, and concern, and money, and energy, or whatever it takes to put up with the annoyances and insults and offences that come from other Christians. That is bearing with one another in love. This is the worthy life in God’s sight.”