Love implies action. We don't simply absorb God's love, and we don't even stop at reflecting it back to Him; when we truly understand God's love, we will reflect His love onto others.
Doers of the Word
A practical application for reflecting God's love to others comes from a potentially surprising source: James chapter 2. Many of us know this Bible passage for its dour warnings that "faith without works is dead," so it can be easy to forget that love, too, is a work of faith. James sets his readers up for James 2 in James 1, where he reminds his readers to not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word. And throughout our series, Shaped by Love, it has become clear that "love" is a major theme of God's word that we should be acting out in our lives.
As James begins his second chapter, he seems to switch topic a bit in order to talk about favoritism within the church. See, James's audience was dealing with trying to impress the people at the top of the social ladder. James's clear response? -- Don't show favoritism! It is this focus on showing God's love equally, regardless of someone's social condition that provides the context for Jame's statement about faith and works. One of the most important ways we live out our faith with Godly works is by loving others unconditionally, as Christ loves.
Loving the Unlovable
James's discussion of favoritism reveals one beautiful facet of God's -- and our -- love: Christ-like love is unconditional. In Romans, Paul tells us that God demonstrates his own love for us in Christ dying for us while we were still sinners! We, too, must show love to one another regardless of sin or other markers of seeming "unsuitability." If we love only those we deem "worthy," we are sinning. God made the rich and poor as well as the easy-to-love and the hard-to-love. We don't get to pick and choose, but we are to show God's love to all.
Faith is a verb?
Like love, faith is an action based on belief. That's certainly not to say that what we do earns us salvation -- not at all! But faithful works are a natural outgrowth of our full belief and trust in God. So James isn't arguing for works over faith. Instead, James argues for a true, active faith. Similarly, when Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13, that if you do amazing things but don't have love, you've gained nothing, he is not saying that you shouldn't do those good things. He's arguing for works flowing from proper motivation in love. Both faith and love involve belief expressing itself in action.
So a practical way to know that we are living out our faith is to love others as Christ loved us, while we were still sinners. Christ laid down his life for us. And we, in humility, must do the same for others. As we are shaped by Christ's love in our lives, we will reflect that love in our relationships with others. And when we love each other well, we show God's love to the world, inviting them into the loving family of God.