Faith in actionWhere's the Faith? Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
A few years ago, James Patterson and Peter Kim surveyed America and tabulated the results. The results were given in their book called The Day America Told the Truth. In the chapter dealing with America’s religious beliefs, they shared that 90 percent of the people questioned said that they truly believed in God. Yet, they also discovered, that of those who said they believed in God – 50 percent had not been to church in at least three months and one out of three had not been to a service in a year.
What does that say? Could it be that church is somewhat irrelevant … out of touch … just going through the motions? What does the role of church play in our lives? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to play church – or just go through the motions. I want you to experience an authentic faith here. Real people – seeking real relationships – with God and one another.
James, the brother of Jesus asks a poignant question, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?”
Someone has said that faith is like calories, you can’t see them, but you can see their results. Real faith can be seen.
For example, our Feed My Sheep ministry started out by seeing a man living across the street behind an electrical panel. He would walk around the streets and there was a desire to reach out to him – knowing he wasn’t alone, sack lunches were made and given out. Through the work of a beautiful congregant here, he is now off the streets! We still hand out sack lunches to dozens of people on a weekly basis. Thanks to your donations, you’re making a difference, one life at a time. That is faith – in action. Faith with works to back it up.
Let’s look at some of the foundations of faith that James is sharing with us.
Faith is more than just an intellectual concept. Some depend on the fact that they have intellectually accepted the facts of the existence of God (Higher Power, Spirit, or whatever you might call the Creator of All). It’s interesting to consider that the Bible never tries to prove the existence of God. It simply says that the one who denies the existence of God is not in their right mind. The psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
When I meet people who claim to be atheists, I am intrigued. I genuinely want to understand their belief system – I often say to them, “I consider myself a person of faith, but I have much to learn from you about faith. You must have very strong faith!”
The question that James wants to answer is not whether works without faith can make a difference, but whether a dead faith, one which produces no transformation, can change us and the world around us.
What about the person who claims to believe the Good News of God’s inclusive love but whose practice doesn’t matche his or her claims? We have all experienced the concept of “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” I call that spiritual abuse. Love the person – and let God be the judge. Show your faith with your works. Let your actions match your lip service. Faith without works – as James says – is dead.
Faith is more than intellectual and it is more than just an emotional experience.
I grew up in a Pentecostal Church. And emotions were a big part of our faith and experience in God. If there weren’t high emotions, we would ask where is God. It is almost as if, there had to be an emotional high for us to experience the Spirit of God.
Faith is not dependant on emotions or an emotional experience. In the silence of meditation, God can be revealed. “Be still and know that I am God.” And at the same time, there is nothing wrong with exuberant praise and a little bit of shouting in excitement over God’s love for us!
Faith is more than an intellectual experience, it’s more than an emotional experience – it produces change.
In Romans 10:17 the apostle Paul says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith involves the whole person: intellect, emotion and will. It’s not just an intellectual agreement with the facts nor is it merely an emotional response, but it also involves our will.
Because it involves our will, real faith always leads to action. For faith to be real there must be a response.
James illustrates this principle by the use of two well-known biblical persons, Abraham and Rahab. You could not have found two more different persons. Abraham was a Jew, Rahab was a Gentile. Abraham was portrayed as a godly man, Rahab as a sinful woman – a prostitute. What did they have in common? Both exercised life-changing faith in God.
I remember a Father’s Day sermon by Rev. Houston Burnside Sr. last year where he talked about Abraham, and what he did to show his faith – offering his son Isaac upon the altar – and then God miraculously stopping him in mid-action, providing another sacrifice. Now, if this were to happen today, we would call the Child Protective Services on him – and as Houston said in his sermon, his son would have to have years of therapy to get over that one!
Abraham’s faith is seen and he was called a friend of God.
Rahab was a resident of the city of Jericho. Her story is told in Joshua chapters two and six. When Joshua sent two spies into the city to get the lay of the land, there they meet Rahab who protected them and in so doing confirmed that she believed in what God said and what God was doing. Rahab heard the word and believed. Rahab responded with her mind and her emotions and also with her will, she did something about it. She risked her life to protect the spies from Israel. Her mind recognized the truth, her heart was stirred by the truth and her will acted upon that truth. She proved her faith by her works.
In the case of both Abraham and Rahab their faith was not just lip service. Their faith was alive – it wasn’t dead.
Our teen group wanted to make a difference – reach out and give money to the Ronald McDonald House – so they had a car wash. A man who came in from the neighborhood said how impressed he was to see teens doing something so positive. He said, “Action is character. And these kids are showing their character.”
Faith in action … not just lip service. I like that.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the senior pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org
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