It’s becoming increasingly difficult to pin down just what I believe. Well, let me rephrase that: I believe in Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures as His testimony. And while I am fairly conversant in Scriptural theology, I sometimes wonder how that’s supposed to affect me.
Yeah, it’s nice to be able to explain in detail just what was going on in the events described in Genesis 6. It’s nice knowing how to reconcile apparent contradictions in the Bible. It’s nice knowing any number of theological nuggets.
It’s nice to know those things intellectually. Nicer still is having faith in the substance of those truths: Jesus Christ.
But faith without works is dead, or so taught the apostle James.
Think for a moment about the Christian websites you’ve frequented. Just how many of them have a doctrinal statement or “statement of faith”? (Hint: If you’re reading this, you’ve been to at least one.) How many are loaded with doctrinal articles — either standalone articles or articles in response to what the creator of the site considers to be false beliefs? (Again, KingdomGeek is one such site.)
Now think of just how many sites are testaments to the “works” side of things. No doubt we need true, scriptural faith. No doubt we need to continually refine our beliefs, weeding out the leaven of falsities which threaten to silence the truths.
But what about our works, our activities, our conversation… our actual lives? Are we testifying only of faith as an intellectual concept or are we testifying to a living, breathing faith which infects every part of our being, tearing us asunder from this world and enabling us to live in the light of another kingdom, a kingdom not of this world?
That’s where my beliefs are being challenged: In light of my faith, how then should I live? I wrote a few days ago on the world hating us. Commenters Robert & Brandon both asked for examples of what we could be doing. Truthfully, I don’t have any — at least not from personal experience.
In Jesus for President (buy it, library it, borrow it… whatever it takes to read it), numerous examples were given on how Christians should be living in this world. Some examples were of responding to adversity, such as the recounting of one guy who, when threatened, stripped naked and danced around like a chicken, effectively disarming the adversaries without resorting to violence.
Or on a more daily basis, we might choose to only buy local food — or at least food that is certified to be produced by fair labor practices. Or perhaps we could choose to reject diamonds and other gemstones mined by labor forced to undergo extreme conditions for paltry wages. (Ditto coal products.)
I’m reminded of the Think Globally tee-shirt, which states, “Think Globally: Act within Local Variable Scope.”
The message of that shirt is fairly profound. Globalization is bad. I’ve always believed such to be the case theologically — anytime people got together in the Scriptures, they tended to reject God as a result (think Tower of Babel or just about any of the world’s empires… Egypt, Babylon, Rome… America). And as a result of that, people suffer. Providing cheap plastic trinkets for adults and kids alike might seem worth it, but not if it comes at a loss of local jobs… or the employment of those oversees who could scarcely afford to buy the product they’re producing.
It’s all a culmination of a breakdown of community. Perhaps the Internet has exasperated that. (Did I really just say that?) Human connections have been reduced to the basest of conversations spread across thousands of miles, while all the while there are those around each party that are desperate for love.
Yet they are merely nameless faces in the crowd, not much different at all from those half a world away assembling the gadgets, trinkets, and gizmos that add to the illusion of significance in your life.
So I’m at this place in my life where I’m unsure of what to do, really. And it seems like every church that comes close to similarity with my beliefs at the same time seems fairly “dead.” We cannot simply relegate the works of “faith without works is dead” to evangelism, but that is what the vast majority of churches restrict their ministries too. Elsewhere in his epistle, James said that pure religion was caring for such as widows, for the sick… I believe that the “works” he spoke of are the same things Jesus so often spoke of: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, giving clothes to the naked… All those rubber-on-the-road activities which Hyper-Dispensationalists often relegate to the Millennial Reign or the period prior to Pentecost. I have read studies from some who would relegate the entire epistle of James to such a future time period as well.
It seems as though the churches are comfortable with evangelism and that’s that. And as a result, they’re getting stale. Their missing the living, breathing ministries which we’re called to as Christians.
And I admit that it’s quite difficult to maintain such beliefs when the only people I know who seem to agree are, well, authors of a book I read. :\