“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:7-11, The Message)
The Message translation is hit-or-miss in my book. Sometimes, it misses the mark in capturing the original intent of the author and gets too loose with its paraphrasing. But when it’s on, it’s dead on. Like this passage form 1 Peter 4.
That’s the gist of the gospel right there, spelled out in black and white. Faith isn’t genuine unless it shows itself in good works. Love isn’t genuine unless it goes beyond mere words and takes hands and feet toward the less fortunate in very tangible ways.
It’s not just social justice without addressing the spiritual need for salvation, and it’s not just a call for repentance without meeting their physical needs. It’s both.
Most of all, it’s about loving people in the same way that God in Jesus loved you. Of course, that’s impossible by merely human standards. It only becomes possible when you serve out of the overflow of God’s love.
As my favorite pastor put it, when you receive God’s love, it’s like trying to contain the ocean in a thimble. When that love of God spills out onto those around you, that’s the basis on which you’re loving people with God’s love and serving them from the overflow and not from your own resources.