I admit, as a writer, I don’t much love this verse. As a writer, I tend to put a lot of weight on words. And I hope that my words will make an impact on the spiritual lives of others. I want my words to bear witness.
But God’s got me thinking hard about this. I think Jesus is actually saying two important things here:
One: Our words — what we say about God — are not the most important thing.
And two, perhaps even more critical: our actions — what we do as the result of our faith — are not the most important thing either.
Which is a little unexpected, don’t you think? When I consider what makes a “good Christian” and what’s indicative of a “good Christian life,” I think of service: what am I doing to help others? What am I doing to live out my faith? And while I do believe service is an important element of faith, I also think it’s critical that we not miss what Jesus is really saying here.
This verse reminds me that a cleansed and grateful life is not something I do. It’s something I receive. A cleansed and grateful life is, in essence, grace, which is not something we earn or deserve, but something we receive and accept as a gift from God.
A cleansed and grateful life is a transformed life, and transformation is not something we initiate or even live out ourselves, but something that is initiated by God and received by us.
This doesn’t let us off the hook, of course. We are still called by God to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. But we would be wise to remember that our every act of mercy, justice, and humility has its roots in the transformed life that is first and foremost the gift of God’s grace.
God always does the doing. And in our grateful receiving, we bear witness to what he has done.