I’ve recently become enamored with the exquisite smooth from the voice of John Legend. The man is an artist of unique ability. I’m telling you, friends… butter. Absolute butter.

When you combine his impeccable style with refreshingly clever lyrics, John Legend can make love songs that seem effortless. As an aspiring connoisseur of the art form of love songs, I find Legend’s discography to be a virtual treasure trove.

I’ve written before about his captivating “All of Me,” and the notion of perfect imperfections. Again… butter. Just spread that song on a biscuit and say grace and eat it up. The man is… well, a legend. I suppose he planned that, didn’t he?

But as skilled as he is with the love songs, he stung me with one slipped in among the buffet of delights. He sings of rolling off another love song only to have his lover cast it aside and ask where he’s been. This particular love song hits a nerve because it’s acknowledging a lesson I’ve spent more than thirty years learning. (You can give it a listen here.)

Consider this simple chorus:

Actions speak louder than, speak louder than,
speak louder than love songs
The melodies they carry on
Actions speak louder than, speak louder than,
speak louder than love songs
I've been doing it all wrong

This hits me like a grenade sending schrapnel into every part of my life.

It rips into me as a husband that is so inclined to do what speaks to me and ignore what really resonates with my wife. She will tell you plainly that my love songs mean more when I’m washing dishes or folding laundry.

It tears at my core as a father because I’m so quick to tell my kids that I love them instead of giving the more costly, more difficult, more needful gift of my undivided attention. “I’m proud of you, son,” doesn’t mean much when you’re not there to demonstrate it.

It shreds the fabric of my soul as a follower of Jesus. I love to sing songs of praise to Him but I’m so spiritually lethargic sometimes that I can hardly call myself a servant in His kingdom.

It’s not a new problem.

Nearly three thousand years ago an aging prophet chided a foolish new king with this pointed question: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” (1 Samuel 15.22)

Think about that for a moment.

All of your acts of worship, however elaborate or expensive, are pointless if you won’t simply obey God.

The very next words that prophet spoke summarized it well: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” In other words, “Look, to do what I said means more than your display.” Or… actions speak louder than love songs.

It’s the same when I want my wife to feel all romantic toward me… but won’t do the simple but inconvenient things that demonstrate my love for her. Actions speak louder than love songs.

It’s much like when I want my kids to know that I am proud of them… but won’t show up for those meaningful moments in their lives to demonstrate it. Actions speak louder than love songs.

It’s just the way that I want to pray and praise and even preach the instructions of my Savior but don’t want to get up from my comfortable chair and step into the clear but uncomfortable thing He commanded. Actions speak louder than love songs.

I suppose that is the same idea that Jesus was getting at when He made a similar statement just hours before he lay down his life on a Roman cross: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14.15)

John Legend may have brought it back into focus, but it’s an old lesson.

There’s nothing at all wrong with the love songs. But our actions speak louder.

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