Throughout the history of the Church, words of confession have often divided Christians and have led to many violent and shocking deaths. If only they had listened carefully to Augustine’s sixth homily on the First Epistle of John where, a mere three hundred years after Jesus’ death, he explain what it means to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. God becoming human flesh, says Augustine, the incarnation, is motivated by the one thing – love. Therefore, we confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, not by words, but by actions of love. It is on this point, he says, we should test believers,
Give the earthen vessels a tap, put them to the proof, whether haply they be cracked and give a dull sound: see whether they ring full and clear, see whether love be there.
Augustine is adamant,
This then is the Spirit of God, which says that Jesus has come in the flesh which says, not in tongue but in deeds; which says, not by making a noise but by loving. And that spirit is not of God, which denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; denies, here also, not in tongue but in life; not in words but in deeds.
What freedom and joy Augustine’s message brings, and I imagine tapping myself to see if “love be there.” May you find your faith lived out this week, “not by making a noise but by loving,” for God first loved us and came to dwell amongst us.
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