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Do the First Thing

by | Apr 17, 2024 | God's Hands, Work

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. … And this is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

(1 John 3:16-18, 23-24 ESV)

How do we know that Jesus loves us? That’s easy. Because He suffered and died to save us and then rose again, of course! Because He lay down His life to make us children of God. We know Jesus loves us because we see what He did. His acts speak for Him.

How do our neighbors know if we love them? Ah, that one’s a bit harder.

It isn’t likely that I’ll be asked to lay down my life for my neighbor. I’ll probably never push anybody out of the way of a speeding bus. And yet, I do get asked on a daily basis to do much smaller things. Would you help me fill out this paperwork? Should I call X, who I know is sitting home alone and lonely? Should I give Y a ride to the grocery store or to church, even though I’ll have to get up early to do it?

These are tiny things, really—especially if we compare them to Jesus’ cross. But they can seem pretty big to me, especially when I’m tired. And it’s super easy to twist this into a guilt trip—woe is me, I don’t love my neighbor the way Jesus loves me! How terrible I am! But that does nobody any good, does it? So let’s forget the guilt trip. After all, we aren’t trying to earn our way to heaven! Jesus has already handled all that.

Instead try this: Think of these little actions as seeds. Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection for us is the huge oak tree from which our tiny little acorns fall. If we do one tiny little thing in response to His great love, why, that’s a seed—the seed of the same love that lives in Him and now in us through the Holy Spirit. God is at work through us in these little acts of love, tiny and reluctant as they may be. And He can grow amazing things from those seeds over time.

So instead of the guilt trip, let’s make it an adventure. Pick one—just one small thing you can do today, as a way of saying “I love You” back to Jesus. Make it as tiny as you like. Ask the Holy Spirit to do it through you. And then see what happens. Because it won’t be you doing it—it will be God doing it through you. And you will have joy.

We Pray: Lord Jesus, take my hand and lead me as I grow in loving You and my neighbor. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on April 17, 2024
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. Who is one neighbor you know who could use a minor act of love?
2. What could you do for them?
3. Pray and ask the Lord to live through you, so it’s Him doing it and not you by yourself.

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