Life, like the Bible, requires context to make sense of things that might, at first glance or with our own bias, seem unusual or contradictory. Relativism is far from a dictatorship, but often a counselor and guide for the curious. At the end of a long section in which John exhorts his followers to love fully: God and other believers, he concludes:
Children, our love must be not just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine.
I don’t think the context of 1 John supports doing good deeds first, then loving God as an afterthought. Do action-oriented believers deserve an automatic pass or condemnation when they speak in depth of serving the poor and needy, or being concerned for them above others in the present world?
What do I really think? That a serious believer must go inward … eventually. Service may be a start, a spark for uncovering a fuller picture of faith. Likewise, an interior life, to bear significant fruit, must turn outward. In contemplative communities, it means the many acts of living in community with sisters or brothers who strive together to fulfill a calling. In the secular realm, I would hope it turns outward to one’s family, faith community, and to the world. That is the lay apostolate in a nutshell.
Love must be active and genuine, or if you prefer, openly demonstrative and appropriately deep.