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Loving Jesus

by Padraic “Paddy” McCoy

Words don’t mean anything,” my college professor announced from the front of the classroom on the first day of the semester. He had a smug look of satisfaction on his face, as if to say in a grade school chant, “I know something you don’t know.” Then he continued, “Words don’t mean; people mean.”

The class I was taking was called “Semantics.”  In my own words, semantics is the study of language and the meanings we assign to that language. Over time I would come to learn that my professor was saying that words don’t mean anything until people attach meaning to those words, and those meanings can be many and varied.

For example, you can use the word “run” in a sentence, but did you know that the word “run” has more than 600 different meanings? You can go for a “run,” but you can also “run” a machine or “run” some errands, and your strawberry jam can “run” onto your shirt.

However, when words are put into action, their intended meaning becomes clearer. I can tell you that I love you, but I could also say that I love my dog or I love my new shoes. If I just say the words, it can cause you to question the true meaning of my words. However, if I buy you a rose, or send you a card, or go out of my way to make you happy, then you know more of what I mean when I say the words “I love you.” You know I care enough about you to do something for you.

The Gospel of John begins with the words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1, 2). Again, words are great, but what do they mean?

Typically we think of the Word of God as the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, 66 books in all. And we believe that these words are inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

No doubt, these are powerful and meaningful words. But as far as God was concerned, it wasn’t enough for Him to give us the Scriptures to function as “a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). No, God went further than that to make sure we didn’t miss the meaning of His words.

The secret is found in what the apostle John shares next in his gospel story. He writes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God actually made His Word come to life, in the flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ.

So it’s one thing for God to say He loves us; it’s quite another thing for God to send us His one and only Son to take on our sin and die the death of a thief so that we might live with Him forever. Jesus came to show us the Father, to bring Words to life. Now that’s love! God put His money where His mouth was. He backed up His words of love by sending His one and only Son to prove that love (see Mark 10:45; John 3:16, 17), and then to serve us and give His life to show us that “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1, NIV),* and then one day to come and take us home where He can love on us forever (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:1-4).

Therefore, we can read the Word of God knowing that God means what He says. Then as we read, we will come to know Him and His love for us even better, and as that happens we will become more equipped to be loved by Jesus, and then to love like Jesus.

The Bible refers to this relationship with Jesus as a daily walk. For example, as Paul writes: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1, 2).

And John wrote later in a letter: “Walk in the light as he himself is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

The word for “walk” in these verses comes from the Greek word peripateó, which can also be translated as, “conduct one’s life,” “live in this way,” or “behave in like manner.”

I love the way the apostle Paul speaks about this relationship in Galatians 5. He begins one passage with the words “So I say, walk by the Spirit,” and he ends the thought with the words “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25, NIV).

Jesus even told us what it will look like to others when we learn to live “in step” and walk with Him. “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).

So in response to my dear college professor, I can now say, “You’re right. Words, alone, can mean many things, but when backed up with actions, their meaning becomes clear. And if that’s the case, the gospel story is one of the most meaningful stories in all of history, for the ‘Word became flesh and dwelt among us,’ proving to us that God means what He says. Amen!”

* Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Padraic “Paddy” McCoy writes from College Place, Washington.

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