Shortly after publishing the last post, Seeing Jesus, three people unsubscribed to my blog. Perhaps I hit a nerve. Or maybe I’m finally speaking about some truth that needs to be exposed. I’m not the least bit offended by someone unsubscribing from this blog. Honestly, there is nothing profound about my words. Still, I enjoy the process of writing down my thoughts, and a few friends continue to encourage me, so I’m writing yet another idea for your consideration.
Before I jump into my parable, let me set the stage by providing the scripture that came to mind.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
I’m reminded of the Rich Mullins Screen Door song, “faith without works is like a song you can’t sing; it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”
James makes it clear; our faith provides the basis for good deeds. Faith and deeds. Zoë and I talk about the “and” requirement for meeting the needs of people across all walks of life. The need is great. We all need to lend a hand in solving many problems in our communities, but most importantly, we need to be people of action.
As I was getting ready for bed last night, I had a thought that would have kept me up writing late into the night, but I was too tired to stay up. It’s a privilege to be able to decide that I’m tired and I should go to bed, right? Earlier in the day, I was hanging around a room filled with people at Clean Start who don’t have that privilege–they don’t have that luxury.
The thought occurred to me, what if we only talked about religion but did nothing? The passage from James came to mind.
We’ve been watching a lot of football lately. As an extravagant gift, we purchased an NFL Game Pass so we can watch an entire football game in about 45 minutes (the Condensed version). I don’t look at scores but have an algorithm that ranks games based on total points, spread, etc., so we can watch a game at night before retiring. We enjoy seeing a great game, especially one that’s close, but we do not like commercials or endless replays in super slow motion.
Now imagine a football team that met every day to discuss the rules. The last game we watched had dozens of penalties. Apparently, there needs to be a discussion about rules! Following the session on rules, the team talks about strategies, tactics, the best practices for offense and defense. I can imagine hearing the debate about defending against the run or the virtues of a long pass when the other team is caught off guard. It’s actually quite intriguing to watch. The team has all kinds of ideas, many of which have merit based on a particular scenario. But here’s the problem: all they are doing is talking about football. No one is actually on the field. The week is filled with talk. Endless talk. No action.
Now visit a local church that creates a warm, safe, and inviting gathering space for people, especially those with children. The music is invigorating. The message is captivating. Everyone is comfortable in talking about Jesus, His sacrifice, the need for salvation, repentance, and walking away from sinful temptations. Then everyone goes home. Done.
Thousands of people would not fill football stadiums to listen to someone talk about a football game. Why do thousands of people fill churches to talk about saving grace that is followed by little action?
When opportunities to serve inside the church outnumber opportunities to serve the community, I submit we have a problem. Serving in the church is great. It helps solve the logistical complexities of about 3 hours a week. Thank you for serving in the church. But if we are all about serving in the church, what have we become?
Do something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be something huge. It doesn’t even have to take long, but it must be something that involves loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Right?
Do it well and do it with all the gifts and talents that God has given you and within the time constraints that you must honor.
Here’s some comforting news: you’re not alone! There are hundreds of people in our County that wake up each day and wonder what they can do to make conditions better for someone else. They go to bed after a long day’s work and wake up trying to feed another family. They do simple things and great things. They are foster parents and non-profit CEOs. They are mentors, big brother, big sisters, and those that pack meals as Saturday Servants. They are all over the place, but there needs to be more.
Lord, I pray for a heart change that leads people to repentance and a great desire to love others like never before. May we be known as a people that serve and love others in ways that defy logic. Most importantly, may we honor you in all we do. May our faith lead to actions that make you smile.