Even people who have never seen Forrest Gump have heard the expression, “Stupid is as stupid does.” It’s the way Forrest’s momma teaches him that real stupidity is not in intellect or how others judge you. Stupid people are revealed through their stupid behavior. People who do smart things are smart people. People who do stupid things…well, you get the idea. And that concept is not unique to stupidity. It’s a truism of many facets of life. If you want to know about the character of a person, look at his actions. His behavior will out the truth. Smart people are those who do smart things. Careful people are those who practice safety and care. Friendly people are those who behave as friends. In his first letter, John says it’s no different with spirituality and righteousness.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3)
I think John would have us understand a few things here:
We are family!
It’s an amazing thing to think about. In a world where people are striving for connection, where we settle for the superficial “friends” of social media, we are invited into a community of faith that becomes our family. God welcomes us with open arms and says, “There is a place here for you.” But that means something more than just a place to belong.
Family begins to look and sound like each other.
One of the funniest parts about belonging to a community is that we take on the look and speech of that community. Each family will have its own peculiar lexicon that develops over the course of time and shared experiences. I remember one time my family went to Wendy’s for a meal. While my mom was in line, my younger brother (maybe 6 years old?), my dad, and I went to the corner table. My brother was climbing over and under the tables, came up suddenly, and hit his head on the bottom of the table. Trying to communicate what happened, he cried, “I boomped my head!” Naturally we thought this slip was funny, and it became part of the family Lexicon. Thirty years later we will still say to each other, “I boomped my head (or arm, foot, etc.) when we get injured.
I read a fascinating article a while back (and if I ever find it again I’ll hyperlink it) that stated we sound like the five most important people in our social circles. That is to say, take the five people you spend the most time with, the people who have the most influence in your life, and you will find your dress and speech patterns are an amalgamation of those five people.
This is no different spiritually. Our spiritual family is supposed to change the way we look and sound. God’s family is supposed to do godly things. We turn our backs on ungodly behavior. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, righteous is as righteous does. We are called to turn our backs on ungodly behavior. We’re either part of God’s family or part of the devil’s family.
Finally, being part of God’s family is about more than personal righteousness—it includes taking care of each other.
The Bible is quite clear that we cannot be right with God if we are not actively loving and caring for humanity. If God is love, we cannot hate people and still maintain personal righteousness. There’s a unique spiritual blend—genuine righteousness means loving God and loving each other. Any less is bogus spirituality. It’s a sham.
Think about your life.
Have you actively been pursuing righteousness? Does your behavior identify you as part of God’s family? Do your actions towards others show that you are a child of God? If not, where do you need to change? How do your actions and speech need to change to reflect belonging to his family?
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.