(Reading List Theme 2.4)

FAITH = BELIEF IN ACTION

“…What is the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?” 2:14

When I was younger, like teenage or less, at youth group or school or as part of a team-building exercise, I did something called a trust-fall. You probably know what it is – one person stands on something several feet above the ground, then her team stands below with their arms extended to catch. She closes her eyes and falls straight backward, trusting the team to catch her. I think one time I even did a blind folded hike with a group, and partners took turns guiding each other or being led. We had to trust that the partner or team would keep us safe. We had to have faith.
The church I used to attend in California has been doing a sermon series called “Christian Atheist” about when we say we believe in Jesus, but live like he doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t make any difference in our lives. If our behavior doesn’t change after we begin to believe in Jesus, it is not real faith, just like if I peeked out of my blindfold or refused to fall backwards would show that I didn’t really trust my partner or my team. Professing Christian, practical atheist.
It is not that good deeds SAVE us – salvation comes only by faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the in the power of his resurrection to defeat sin and death. Good actions don’t save us. But actions that reveal a lack of love or trust just might reveal that we don’t really have faith.

HOW WE REALLY LOVE

“How can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?” 2:1

For several years now I’ve understood the concept of Biblical faith being not just mental assent, but active belief. But when I came to James 2:1 the other day, I wondered, How is it lack of faith to show partiality to one person over another? Yes, I know it is rude. I know it is selfish. I know it is not loving in that way Christ loved… But how is it lack of faith? James answers in the following verses… because when we are nice to those we think we can give us something, and rude to those we don’t think have anything to give, then we are putting our trust in people, and not in Jesus. Real love is active when we have nothing to receive in return. It is real love when we love just because we understand that Jesus loves someone because he made them… not because they smell good or act rightly.

NEVER GOOD ENOUGH

“And the person who breaks all of the laws of God except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws” 2:10

There are lots of good people on this earth. People who take care of others and love their families and volunteer in their communities and give money to charity. Some people do good things with good intentions, some do good things with selfish motives or fear of consequences. But no one is perfectly good. Only God is perfect. I can never be good enough to be like him. Or to enter his perfect eternity.
So there is no room in me to judge other people, because I can never really know anyone else’s motives, or what kind of baggage or stress may cause them to act as they do. And my good actions are great – good actions are at least a faint reflection of the goodness of God. But it can never be enough. If God has been so merciful as to cover my sin by looking at me through the lens of the life of Jesus, I have no room to refuse mercy to anyone who wrongs me. I like how James says it in 2:12-13 “So whenever you speak, or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law of love, the law that set you free. For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you.”

Lord, help me to show mercy to others each day, remembering that I, too, have been forgiven. Help me to have real faith in you, trusting only for what you will give me, rather than hoping for what I might receive from someone else. And help me to live in peace and joy, because even when the circumstances of my life seem unsettled, I know I am safe in your care.

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