Faith without action is dead…We find this appeal in the epistle of James, chapter two. The emphasis on good deeds by James has been debated against, with the argument that we are justified by faith alone and not by our works –because, you see, James asks us, how can one be justified by a faith that has no good deeds?
This blog is not intended to be an in-depth theological one – never has been, and I don’t intend it to be…rather more of a place to begin thought, discussion, for encouragement and exhortation to live a faithful Christian life. So if you would like to know more about the above mentioned debate read some commentaries on James and this chapter. I am NOT looking to get into that debate here, as quite frankly I don’t really see the big deal being made over James, and get tired with people wanting to constantly debate individual parts of scripture – I find it contentious.
What I will say is that yes, I agree that we are justified by faith alone and that I don’t believe James is arguing contrary. When we read James, the whole epistle urges us to live a faithful life, and I do not find this any different to other scriptures by St. Paul and others which urge us to live a faithful life to The Lord, offering ourselves as a daily sacrifice.
So why is faith without action dead?
Well to begin it may not be totally dead…I hear this assertion as a logical conclusion of what may well happen when a Christian is complacent in their faith, rather than actively living to share it with others; as I believe the epistle of James is an exhortation. And I also wonder about a person’s depth of faith if they are not active in it, eager to share God’s love with others, and bearing fruit of God’s love and Kingdom. We also need to acknowledge the very real possibility of hurts deeply impacting people which can then affect their level of commitment and deeds.
I will not assert that people cannot have their own personal, private relationship with The Lord…for indeed I believe this is where the Christian relationship begins…yes we may well hear about Jesus through other people, and be impacted by the way they live their lives faithfully, but this will not replace our own personal decision which happens between ourselves and God – and can happen anywhere! My re-birth happened in a hotel room with God, me and a Holy Bible…it was after this that I began going to church.
But I do firmly believe that there is no such thing as a secret Christian, or that we are ever required to be an individual Christian. Secret Christians in countries where they can be persecuted for their faith, still meet with other Christians in private places. We are all individuals, gifted individually, yet never fully…we need the other members of the body of Christ to speak into our lives as well as scripture.
I had someone say to me once, ‘I was like you once, a long time ago…so eager!’
It broke my heart, for I thought, as someone who came to faith earlier than me, they should be even more mature in the faith and able to pass it on. I ask you, shouldn’t they be even more firm in their faith having had ‘eyes to see’ longer and be bearing fruit? I also know that this person does not fellowship and hasn’t done for a long time…
The analogy of the hot coal from the fire being separated from the others going cold I believe is the perfect one, for when we try to be individual Christians. I think this is when we mostly see faith without action.
For church is the place where I have found, I am able to be a Christian in His community. It is through church that I have been able to serve the saints as scripture advises, be encouraged and encourage others, worship corporately and receive Holy Communion…being strengthened to then go forth, and faithfully live the rest of the week for Him! It is in church that I am able to grow alongside the mature, faithful Christians, and have an active, living faith.
An active, living faith is exactly what I believe James, Chapter two is talking about and also other scriptures which urge us to lead a life worthy of God’s calling upon us.
For I ask you…how can one believe the Gospel and then keep it private?
How can one have the love of God living inside them and then not give it?
Another point I have heard raised is, ‘but I don’t want to pressure people.’
But I ask you, is there really such a thing as a silent Christian? Yes we can demonstrate love without words, but we also do so with our conduct and there are many opportunities for us in our daily lives to acknowledge Christ to others.
How difficult is it to say, ‘I respect your opinion but as a Christian I have a different view’?
Or, ‘I’m sorry but I’m not into that because of my faith.’?
It is DIFFICULT to be a Christian here where I live today…I acknowledge this. Especially as one expressing their faith actively as James urges to do, along with other scriptures AND Jesus Himself commissions us to do! The world will call you a ‘Jesus Freak’ or try to dissuade you by saying things like… ‘You don’t need to do that (fill in the blank) to be a Christian!’
I appreciate this is a longer post for me. So I will say no more, but rather ask you a question to ponder…Do I express my faith in Christ actively in my life and am I encouraging others to do so? If you feel you're needing to grow in this area, please pray to God for His direction.
In love, Melanie.
I will leave you with this song by Chris Tomlin, 'I will follow'.