1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
I like that the Japanese specifies just words or tongue. We do need to be verbal in our expressions of love, and the more so the closer the relationship. However, words alone are empty. This actually matches James’ famous statement about being a “doer of the Word,” in James 1:22. Some people are more verbal than others, so there is going to be a wide variation in how this is expressed, but both John and James are cautioning against thinking, even subconsciously, that “I’ve said it so I’ve done it.” Jesus was very clear on this point as well. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) On that point we need to be careful we don’t decide on our own what God’s will must be, but rather be humbly submitted to Him. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23) The same can be said of expressions of love. A major issue between husbands and wives is the failure to understand what will be received as an expression of love. With all the differences between men and women, it’s not unusual for one partner’s “expressions of love” to make the other partner angry! Learning to love accurately and effectively is a lifelong endeavor.
I’ve been in quite a practicum in this area over the past 48 years. (The anniversary of our first date is just over two weeks away.) I can tell my wife often that I love her, and I do, but if my actions don’t line up by meeting her needs, it all sounds very empty. I do a lot of marriage counseling, largely premarital but some otherwise. This is an issue I bring up every time, but people seem to have great difficulty understanding and accepting it. We think everyone is supposed to be like us, whatever their gender! I had the huge advantage of growing up with parents who were quite expressive of their love, for each other and for us their children. They didn’t flaunt it, but we certainly knew they kissed, and not just a peck on the cheek, either. Far beyond that, we saw how they were thoughtful of each other, communicating, and as much as possible sticking to, schedules, offering to run errands for each other and the like. It’s no wonder I couldn’t wait to get married, and so tied the knot at 20! Some of our friends today are in awe of our marriage, but don’t see how they could emulate it. They may not have the background that Cathy and I did even before we married, much less the track record since, but they can certainly improve their current situation if they will take John’s words to heart.
Father, thank You for Your love and grace to us. Help us be open and accurate channels of that love and grace, to each other first of all but also to everyone around us, so that they may be drawn to You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!