A Musing about Acting on Beliefs - 1-20-2022
James 2:14-26 New Revised Standard Version
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you, my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus, the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
I recently came across the story of a harried, frazzled mom whose 4–year–old son thrust a paper–towel tube in her hand and challenged her to a swordfight.
He flipped his tattered security–blanket behind him like a cape and assumed the position of a would-be musketeer. Distracted by her own personal battle with coupons scattered across the table, she simply held the sword in her hand as she continued her scavenger hunt for any overlooked savings. After all, inflation is real, and their family budget was tight. In response to the whacks of her son’s bigger sword, she half-heartedly waved her own in his general direction.
Suddenly, he stopped and walked over to her; then he pressed his little palms against her face to be sure she was looking him in the eye.
“Mom,” he said, “you have to act like you believe.”
I think this is exactly what James is saying here in the second chapter of his epistle. While belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the first step, it is by no means the only step; as that audacious four-year-old said to his mother, you also have to act like you believe.
Of course, statements like this one are much easier said than done. Because we live in a time where neighbors and even families are divided over issues of politics and beliefs about things such as economic systems and global warming and masks and vaccines and the role of government and education and even our nation’s history. It seems we cannot even agree on what is and is not actually a fact. And misinformation and its spread is being used to intentionally tear folks apart as lies are being proclaimed as truth and truths in turn are attacked as lies.
Because of this reality, it is more important than ever that we work to live our beliefs in our daily lives. We need to work on enhancing our instincts for being better people, living better lives, and discerning how we might live out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps to start we should begin asking, “Who’s in trouble?” “To whom do I owe a letter?” “Could someone use a meal?” “How long since I’ve called a friend?” “What sick person would appreciate a card or a call or perhaps even a visit over FaceTime or Zoom from me?” I pray someday we can even visit folks safely again.
In other words, the question is how can you and I act on our beliefs by being of service to others?
Because the best way to show our faith is by living it in our daily lives and acting on our beliefs. And each time we do this perhaps a fracture will be healed, a division repaired, and the kingdom of God will be a little bit closer to being here on earth even as it is assured in that promised day in heaven.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Alleluia Amen.