rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgIf you are like me you struggle with love. Sometimes people cannot tell if we love them because our actions seem distant, selfish and self-centered.

Being hurt by people who reportedly love us, being taken advantage of and for granted, has made many people overly protective and some even cynical.

Through Christ, I believe we can all outgrow that.

What would people say about your love? Is your love passive or active? Do you tell people you love them and fail to show it? Is your love pure and unconditional or a defiled conditional love?

The Apostle James (1:19-20) says, “We are to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” So when it comes to your love, ask yourself: How, am I doing with these? Note: This is not a multiple choice test; in this case you must do all, or your love is not being put into action at all.

If you are a Christian, then you know we put Christ’s love into action by being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Then we carefully listen and thoughtfully demonstrate our love to others.

Hearing God’s Word, and doing nothing with it, is deceptive and leads to self-deceit. In the end this is the worst deceit of all. If we flatter ourselves into believing because we know God’s Word and say we love others, but we do not really love, it is as the Apostle Paul said: “We are (only) a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (I Cor-inthians 13:1)

Most of us are challenged in governing our tongue. James stresses that failing to listen, speaking too quickly and in anger, prevents us from achieving the righteous love life that God desires for us, and blocks us from putting Christ’s love into action. James goes on to make the point that if a person would govern their tongue, they must first harness their passions.

To put and keep love in action we are told to tame the tongue, squash corrupt affections, as well as avoid rash anger. To help us do this we must first study God’s word, then make proper use of it.

James (1:23-25) tells of those who do this and who read the Word and fail to make proper use of it. He compares the Word/Law to a mirror where we see our natural face. Let us be mindful that there are mirrors that flatter and mirrors that distort. But that which is truly the Word of God is no flattering mirror. The truth, as it is found in Jesus’ teaching, flatters no man.

So those who see themselves in the “gospel mirror” and walk away, then forget what they look like, deceive themselves. Blind to themselves, they instead quickly see the faults of others, and become blind to their own.

Such hasty actions cripple love, and make one’s love conditional, demanding, judgmental and overbearing. Love for these blind and hasty people makes them deaf and dumb, full of loving lip service.

They become too slow to listen, too quick to speak, and too prone to quickly get angry. Further, their love becomes hard to feel, difficult to see, and as they get older their love grows cold, dormant and often ends in loneliness.

Finally, James stresses that if our love is wrong then our religion is wrong too; both become impure. By not bridling our tongues, we become too slow to listen, too quick to speak, prone to stay angry and then see nothing but the faults of others.

These become our normal love patterns, our norms. Then we bring these “love norms” to church, challenging one another’s wisdom, questioning each other’s sincerity, and these actions for church visitors become signs of vain religion.

One’s true religion is equal to and guided by one’s charity (or love) towards others, and the measure of charity in us makes us swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.

Such action begins to take priority in our hearts, and in our conduct, until nothing prevails in us but Christ’s love, and in such behavior all can see Christ’s love in action.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or