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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Actions speak louder…..

Written by: on June 1, 2018

Jackie Pullinger’s book, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens is an engaging read that is at once heartening and disturbing as it manages to capture both the depth of human weakness and depravity as well as the incredible power of God’s love for us demonstrated first in and through Jesus and then, in response, through the lives of those that love and follow Jesus.

As I read Chasing the Dragon this is the thought that kept surfacing in my heart and my mind: words are an utterly inadequate means of demonstrating God’s welcome, Jesus’ sacrificial love and the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit.

The only way that these truths can adequately be communicated to anyone – but maybe especially to those in the most desperate of situations – is through loving actions, demonstrated in the context of relationship and the length and depth of that relationship is a critical element in the efficacy of the communication.

I first made this connection as I read this passage at the very beginning of Chasing the Dragon: 

I do not think the drug – riddled mind of Ah Tong understood all of the doctrine of redemption . He was crazy for drugs and this had been a long speech , but I could see that something had happened . He was absolutely amazed at the idea that Jesus loved someone like him . For the first time in years , something — or someone — had penetrated his mean heart , and he was moved . (Pullinger, p. 21)

Those that are the most ‘lost’ very rarely can be reasoned with or explained into faith.
In a very real way – although not always just ‘intellectually’ – they may not be able to understand God’s gift of grace and salvation.

One thing that is usually very easy to understand for those that are struggling and/or lost is actions – When that grace and love; forgiveness and sacrifice is demonstrated in actions – especially in consistent and repeated actions over a period of time, that speaks more clearly and more convincingly than any apologetic that has ever been developed.

I saw this in the life of my stepfather, Tom.  He had lived, per his own description a ‘pretty wild life’, when he and my mother started dating.  He grew up in a Roman Catholic family, but quickly rebelled against all of the rules and expectations that came with participation in that faith tradition.  Tom was never one for following the rules and at the same time was generally unwilling to give any quarter to hypocrisy (real or perceived) of any kind – he was never going to be a good fit for the church of his upbringing.

Over the years it became clear that he had distanced himself from not just religion, but from God as well, but not because he didn’t have interest or time for God and wasn’t interested in a community of faith.  Rather, he was perpetually disappointed by the shortcomings and inadequacies of the faith communities he knew and saw.  Beyond that, he genuinely believed that because of the things that he had seen and done, that he was ‘too far gone’.

His beliefs about forgiveness and restoration was limited by his own experience and understanding.  He thought it simply wasn’t possible that there was (still) a place for him in the family of God.  His understanding, at that point, was very similar to Ah Tong’s family:

When his family turned up, they stood aghast at our totally incomprehensible behavior. What were we, good people—Christians even—doing praying for their son? To them he was bad. He had left their home young, ran the streets, organized the gangs, and merited only a turning by on the other side (Pullinger, p. 19).

It was a true miracle to witness and participate in Tom’s transformation over the last 20 years.  He passed away in January of last year, but over the years he became convinced of God’s love and forgiveness for him, the need to be in relationship with God and in community with other believers.  That last part was still difficult for him, as he maintained his eagle eye for hypocrisy, but the transformation in his life and perspective was nothing short of miraculous.

Why the change?  How did that happen?  The same dynamic that is demonstrated so powerfully in Chasing the Dragon was at play in Tom’s life.  He was changed, transformed by the love of God and God’s Holy Spirit, but not in some magical or obviously supernatural way.  Instead, for Tom, like Ah Tong and so many others in the Walled city of Kowloon, it was the demonstration of love in action.  It was bumping up against the love of God, the forgiveness of God and the acceptance of God demonstrated in the actions of someone that was a consistent presence of their life that made all the difference.

For Tom, it was my mother’s witness of Christ-like love for him even when he knew (or thought) he didn’t deserve it.  This book is the story of how Pullinger represented that love of God for so many in Hong Kong that thought (or thought they knew) that they were ‘bad’ and beyond the love of God.

Praise God for those brave enough, faithful enough and trusting enough to follow God into the places we might rather not go – and, critically, to stay in those places – cultivating relationships that demonstrate and become the transforming, forgiving, sustaining love of God.

About the Author

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Chip Stapleton

Follower of Jesus Christ. Husband to Traci. Dad to Charlie, Jack, Ian and Henry. Preacher of Sermons, eater of ice cream, supporter of Arsenal. I love to talk about what God is doing in the world & in and through us & create space and opportunity for others to use their gifts to serve God and God's people.

7 responses to “Actions speak louder…..”

  1. Lynda Gittens says:

    Chip thank you for your story.
    I am always in awe of the works of Christ in people. That name ‘Jesus’ is full of power. It was great to read about his transformation.
    I respect a woman who marries a man who is in a different relationship with God from them. I wish the women who are successful in these relationships would share their testimony. I know so many.
    You mother is a strong woman in God, and I give her much respect.

  2. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    “He was changed, transformed by the love of God and God’s Holy Spirit, but not in some magical or obviously supernatural way. Instead, for Tom, like Ah Tong and so many others in the Walled city of Kowloon, it was the demonstration of love in action.”

    This hits home to the work of the Holy Spirit through us, that ability to use the fallible and hypocritical community of faith, foolish folks like us, your mom, and Pullinger, to bear witness to the unconditional love of God for those that deem themselves unloveable.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “…for Tom, like Ah Tong and so many others in the Walled city of Kowloon, it was the demonstration of love in action.”

    Amen. The type of miracle that Tom gives evidence to is just as real as someone who is cured of a deadly disease. When the world sees a live changed radically, they see the work of God in the here and now.

  4. Mary Walker says:

    How wonderful that these truths are universal – whether for Tom or Ah Tong or anywhere else. The Holy Spirit can speak quietly to our hearts but mostly He uses people and actions speak louder than words. I appreciate your story Chip.

  5. Kristin Hamilton says:

    “words are an utterly inadequate means of demonstrating God’s welcome, Jesus’ sacrificial love and the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit”
    Yes. I read your words here and sighed. You captured an important truth of this book. Pullinger lived the welcome, love, and presence so clearly that it seemed wrong compared to those who only spoke words and demonstrated wrath.
    I love the story of your step-father. I think I would have really liked him. 🙂

  6. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Chip Yes Indeed Love is a verb! How often we forget that! It is our openess to love and share with others in being a presence that makes way for the Holy Spirit to do His great work! 🙂

  7. Jim Sabella says:

    Chip, I like the way you frame the importance of showing the gospel via loving actions in the context of a relationship. Thanks too for sharing your story. Although I think the “telling” is the highest priority, action to meet the needs of people is an integral part of the telling. Sometimes people separate them. I would argue, like you, that they are different parts of the same song. If someone comes to my door hungry, and I pray for them, share the Gospel and then say go in peace, without giving them something to eat, then have I acted like Christ? Nope and I don’t think I’ve done my job as a Christian. Great post Chip!

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