“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
The church makes bold claims. Scripture makes bold claims. Being a Christian means that one is involved in bold claims.
For instance, Christians believe that the future is brighter than the past. That’s a bold claim in our world today as stories of terrorist uprisings, refugees fleeing civil wars, and drug cartels continue to flood the news talk shows. A common theme held by many right now is that the future is not brighter. An unofficial survey from a friend who teaches high school government says that most of his students, when asked, will say that they believe the future will be worse than the present. Yet, in the face of overwhelming evidence, the church proclaims that the ultimate victory is won, that evil will be destroyed, and that the Lamb will reign on the throne. That is a bold claim.
But it’s not the only bold claim. Christians claim that one day all wars will cease. That the lion and lamb will rest together, and that swords will be beat into plowshares. Christians claim to love everyone, even their enemies and those opposed to the gospel. Christians claim that the world is not changed through power and might, but through love and self-sacrifice. That giving yourself in service to others is the greatest act of love. That true leaders are those who put others first, and help the lowly to rise up to places of prominence. Christians claim one should take the place of humility, not honor. Christians claim that the pursuit of wealth and possessions is meaningless. And Christians claim that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
These are bold claims. Perhaps we’ve heard them so often that the boldness has faded from our consciousness and we aren’t shocked by them anymore. But when examining them closely, especially in light of our greater culture, we must admit these are bold claims. It doesn’t make sense that anyone would believe or advance any of these truths. Yet every week, in thousands of church assemblies across the country, countless Christians boldly proclaim to each other, and in reality the rest of the world, that they believe these truths and have staked their lives to their truthfulness. Every week, as Christians partake of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, they proclaim that they believe these bold claims are real, and should define one’s life.
But talk is not enough.
Talk is important, and often we have to verbally proclaim a belief before we can ever internalize it and make it our own. There is nothing wrong with gathering with other believers and proclaiming our shared core values. This is an important step that must happen.
But we can not let it end with mere words. We can not end with simply proclaiming our shared beliefs. We can not end with simply making bold claims to the world of how the world should be, and how we as Christians will respond in the midst of a fallen world. In order to make it real we have to live it. In order to show that our bold claims actually make a difference in our lives we have to live out, as best we can, the message we are proclaiming. We have to actually love our enemies. We have to offer peace in the midst of war and conflict. We have to share our resources, volunteer with ministries who serve underprivileged areas, and befriend and stand with those who are of a different culture and race. We have to actually live out faith in order to make it real.
That’s part of the encouragement James is sharing in chapter 2 when he says faith without works is dead. James isn’t saying that our works will somehow save us, or that we need to do so many good deeds each week. Instead, James is encouraging us to move past the stage of mere belief and proclamation to action. We have to move past posting encouraging statements on Twitter and liking stories on Facebook, and actually live out faith in the midst of our world. We have to get our hands dirty, which will probably involve getting us out of our comfort zone, in order to be image bearers of God in this world. Faith means action.
Christianity makes bold claims. Those claims are even bolder when lived out in flesh and blood. Put your faith in action and live it.