Editor’s Note from the author, S.M. Reed:
“The following blog post was originally posted on the blog, “The Jaded Evangelical”. “The Jaded Evangelical” is part devotional and part Christian apologetic, aiming to encourage those who have walked away from the Church due to becoming discouraged (or, jaded) by how polluted the Church has become by conservative politics and American ideology. There is another way forward – and we’ll find it by focusing on Jesus. You can read more at: Blog | The Jaded Evangelical (webador.com).”
At my place of employment, we like to celebrate. We celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries, new employees and retirements, the conclusion of internships, the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the new.
I celebrated my second work anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I received a Starbucks gift card, flowers, and a card signed by all my co-workers. The picture on the front of the card was a woman in a business suit with several arms, each juggling something. The words by the picture read, “To the woman who wears many hats.”
It has become a bit of a joke around the office how many things I do. Much more than the job description I was originally hired for. My supervisor tells me sometimes she worries about the day when I leave, as she says it will be impossible to replace me with only one person – she jokes she’ll need to hire at least two. What can I say? I like to be busy.
Let’s say, though, I had a different attitude. Let’s say two years ago when they offered me the position, I accepted it, but then never went into work. Or maybe I came in for an hour a week to attend staff meetings. Perhaps I even put a few dollars into a jar for someone’s birthday celebration now and then.
Possibly I thought about my job off and on during the week while going about my life. I might even have picked-up something position-related to read for 5-10 minutes once a week or so. I tried to personify what someone in my position should, but since I was never there, what did I really know?
How long would that fly? No doubt they would have tired of such an attitude rather quickly – and I would have been fired.
I fear sometimes many Christians believe faith is like that. Two years ago – or perhaps, when they were a kid – they “accepted Jesus” through a prayer they repeated after the pastor. Now they go for an hour to church once a week, or less, if they are too busy. They occasionally drop a dollar or two in the offering plate when it goes by. They have random thoughts about God off and on throughout the week as they go about life. Might pick-up the Bible to read for 5-10 minutes once a week or so… or not. They try to be a “good person”, as much as they can. And they believe that’s all there is to it.
How long can that fly?
In the words of James, can such a faith even save you (James 2:14-24)? If we are merely “calling it in”, claiming the name of Jesus but not obeying His commands, should we truly even call ourselves Christians? Christian – which means, “little Christ”?
But wait, doesn’t Paul say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yes, AND… don’t stop reading there. The very next verse states, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Created to do good works.
NOT… created to believe.
NOT… created to attend church.
NOT… created to live a good life.
No, created to do good works.
You were created with a purpose. You were given the grace and strength necessary to live out that purpose. God has given you unique talents and gifts and skills and abilities and experiences that this world needs. That the Kingdom needs.
Christianity is not about what church you attend (though church attendance does help us stay strong in the faith!) or about the bumper sticker on your car or the music you listen to. It is certainly not about who you vote for or your political stances or what social issues you stand against. Nor is it about America or any one flag or country.
Christianity is about following Christ.
Faith is a verb, not an adjective.
We are to love, as He loved. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13:35.
We are to serve, as He served. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace” 1 Peter 4:10-11.
We are to sacrifice, as He sacrificed. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” Romans 12:1.
We are to obey, as He obeyed. “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” John 14:23.
We are to forgive, as He forgave. “Forgive one another, just as God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32.
We are to make disciples, as He made disciples. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20.
This is an active, living, breathing faith.
What about Romans, however, where Paul writes, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9)? Doesn’t this negate the importance of our actions?
Let’s consider the context. In this section of Romans, Paul is lamenting Jews who have rejected Christ. They rejected Christ because they believed their inheritance as the Jewish people and their adherence to the law was sufficient to save them. In other words, they believed their religion, not God, was all they needed. Paul argues the law was created in order to point us to our need for grace, and that no one was ever saved by following the law alone – they were saved by faith, put into action through the following of the law.
Faith… in action.
Faith… and obedience.
Unfortunately, we have this pervasive, watered-down definition of faith which has tricked us into thinking Christianity is about a superstitious prayer and a certain set of issues we believe to be true, rather than a calling to something greater. To Someone greater.
When we truly connect to Him, our lives are never the same. After Paul’s conversion experience, he said he was “compelled” to share Jesus with the world. “Compelled” as in, despite all the hardship he experienced (and he experienced a LOT), he couldn’t stop. He was transformed from the inside out – and he changed the world for Jesus.
Clearly, Paul saw a connection between faith and action. James, the half-brother of Jesus and a leader in the early church, also, when he penned, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). Some translations say, “faith without deeds is useless.”
Useless. Useless to make a difference in this world. Useless to bring others to Jesus.
Useless even to save us?
Faith is a verb. How will you live out yours?