Be doers of the word and not merely hearers … ‘ (James 1:22)
Christian faith is meant to be lived. Our faith is more than a set of laws or abstract truths. It is not just a subject for interesting conversation, or speculation. God’s love in us will reach out to others. When we love God, we cannot look on the needs of others with indifference. Faith calls us to action that shares the divine love in us. We may be sent out from the Eucharist with the dismissal “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” (BCP, p. 366).
If our lives are formed by the shape of the liturgy, we will actually serve Christ by going out to serve others in his name. The Epistle of James urges us to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). We can be inspired by the example of Christian doers of the word like Vida Scudder and Dorothy Day, who reached out to offer radical hospitality and assistance to the poor. We can recall Jonathan Daniels, who gave his life in the struggle for civil rights in America. And we can discover our own ways to be doers of the word in terms of the gifts and opportunities we have.
Our actions must reflect the heart of our faith. The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus’ disciples for neglecting the tradition of the elders by eating with defiled hands. Jesus described these critics as hypocrites whose hearts were far from God. They were greatly concerned over outward forms and expressions, but they missed the inner meanings and truths of faith. Jesus knew they did not speak for God, and they were trying to inflate their own importance as they criticized the disciples’ outward purity. Jesus stated that defilement comes from the inside of a person, not from the outside (Mark 7:21-23). Defilement comes from the heart, from bad choices and evil intentions.
Our faith is not for show, and it is not meant to enhance our self-importance at the expense of others. We must not confuse our own ideas and agendas with the mind of God. Our discernment of the divine will should be humble, patient, and open to the unexpected. Then our actions can reflect the heart of God’s love instead of another attempt to advance ourselves. We may be surprised to find God powerfully active in the lives of others, even those who disagree with us. We can share with all kinds of people to know God’s love more fully.
Look it Up
See the Prayer for Social Justice (BCP, p. 823), which asks that the divine Spirit may move every human heart, and that “barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Think About It
How do you express your faith in actions? When has Christ been visible in your life? Have you ever confused your own agenda with God’s will?