Yesterday I, Pastor Todd, spoke on Faith and Deeds being key components for healthy relationships. I used a couple stories to explain the points. You can hear the message here (Sept. 8, 2019). Today I’d like to reflect a little more on the aspects of faith and deeds in healthy relationships. Many Christians, Protestants in particular have latched onto the idea that Christianity “isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Believers fall on both sides of that statement and in many places in between. But at the end of the day, faith is an undeniable component to Christianity. In the time of James and Jesus, faith, by nature is inseparable from deeds. It was when Platonism crept into Christian minds that the two were considered different.
The term faith is and can be used in a multitude of contexts and can mean various things. Some people define faith according to the dictionary. Some define faith according to Hebrews 11. Others define it based on cultural connotations. James seems to use faith to mean a combination of: 1. Hoping/expecting for a positive result to something. This is still one of the meanings of faith today. 2. Wishful thinking that God will provide for basic survival necessities without human aid.
That is not faith in first century Jewish thought reflected in James. What James is getting at in his letter is the same thing modern theologians and psychologists are rediscovering: What we believe governs our actions. “Belief governs will.”
Because of this, our actions betray what we believe. If we believe in God’s supernatural intervention in life, we will act accordingly. The hoping for positive results will be accompanied by both confidence and actions. We will do things in line with what we believe, whether focused prayer, intentional fasting, seeking relevant knowledge, and more. We believe God has people’s well-being in mind so we act accordingly. Such belief guides our actions to reflect God’s actions where possible.
James articulates the fallacy that telling a cold hungry person to “be warm and well fed” is absolutely useless and isn’t faith. Someone with faith will emulate God by feeding and warming said person. Faith is tantamount to Christian living and by its nature is action oriented.
Ever since the Reformation, a huge emphasis has been placed on separating faith and deeds. Martin Luther is recorded as wishing the letter of James had never been included in the Bible. Luther’s opinions on James’ letter seem remarkably irreverent of part of Scripture today. Yet it is important to consider church abuses he was confronting in his day. We as humans (even Christians) are prone to imbalances in our opinions. Generally, we are reacting to imbalances and tend toward the opposite imbalance. C. S. Lewis likened this to a drunk man on a horse. He tips toward one side. His friends help center him, but he begins to tip toward the other side. This it is with movements within society and the Church. In Luther’s day, deeds were the topic in the balance.Deeds are a balancing act 500+ years later.
A look into any healthy relationships quickly reveals action is a core essential. With faith, we believed in the goodwill of the other person, and vice-versa. That belief must be supported by action. When we believe in another’s well-being, we act accordingly. The same goes for our belief in God. If we believe, we don’t sit back and let God take care of the mundane details of those around us. Christians are to bring God-given value to those around us. Faith in action is fuel for the Gospel’s success. The Great Commission explains that. Christians have things to “do” in this New Covenant. Deeds prove a relational God.
To summarize the last part of James:
- Faith without deeds isn’t faith. It is wishful thinking devoid of relationship
- Deeds without Faith is humanism. It is only loving those like you. It is devoid of redemptive relationship.
- Faith & Deeds Combined reflects the true evidence of our relationship with Jesus.
The Gospel is more than getting out of Hell and into Heaven. It’s about a multifaceted relationship with the God of creation. He is a good God and has our well-being in mind. He communicates through His word and Holy Spirit. He guides us, provides for us, saves us, and makes us new. Starting our redemption is what He does. We grow into that redemption by what we do in response. He helpsus do it.
I hope today’s Pastor Blog helps you better experience our Lord’s