Summary: A sermon about having "Jesus shaped faith."
“Actions Speak Louder than Anything”
Comedian Louis C.K. once said, “I have a lot of beliefs…And I live by none of them.
That’s just the way I am.
They’re just my beliefs.
I just like believing them—I like that part.
They’re my little ‘believies.’
They make me feel good about who I am.
But if they get in the way of a thing I want, I just do what I want to do.”
James makes it clear that we can “claim” to believe in all kinds of wonderful “ideals,” but if we don’t put what we “supposedly believe” into action…
…if we don’t apply it to our daily lives…
…if we don’t allow it to transform us from the inside out…
That faith is as good as dead.
On an NPR radio show a prize-winning photojournalist confessed that many people in his field remain spectators as they observe and record the misfortunes of others.
And then he shared a disturbing story of his own.
He was sent out on an assignment to get pictures of a coastal storm.
He said, “I walked out on the beach, and there was this one figure by the ocean looking out.
A split second after I took a picture of her, a wave came in, hit the embankment below her feet, knocked the sand out, and she went sliding into the water.”
Then he said, “I was probably at least 50 feet away from her, shooting with a telephoto lens.
She was in the water in shock or whatever.
I thought, okay, am I going to make a rescue? I already got the shot I need.”
“Instead, I just kept taking more pictures.”
Soon a large wave prepared to crash on top of the helpless woman.
The photojournalist continued his story, “The wave looked to me like it was 20 feet high.
Within seconds after the picture was taken, she was covered by the wave.
I realized that she was gone.
The sequence of pictures received quite a bit of attention.”
Later in the interview the man admitted that he could have made a difference, but instead he chose to observe and take pictures.
James makes it clear that what saves us is the distinction between a dead faith—faith without works…
…or faith without putting it into action, and a living faith—a faith that is always put into action.
If we were to read further in our Scripture Lesson for this morning, just down through verses 19 and 20 we would see that James says, “It’s good that you believe that God is one.
Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear.
Are you so slow?
…faith without actions has no value at all”.
And so James goes back to the most basic, and yet the most important point of ancient Judiasm which is the confession that “God is one.”
That was and still is, at the heart of Jewish daily prayer: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and mind, and soul and strength.”
And it is at this point that Jesus added, what James calls, in verse 8, the royal law, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
And that is what putting faith into action is about, is it not?
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Simply saying that “God is one” doesn’t get us very far if it doesn’t make a difference in our lives.
After all, the demons know all this, and it doesn’t do them any good; it just scares them out of their wits!
So, the Christian meaning of faith is a “Jesus shaped faith.”
It needs to translate into action—into Jesus shaped action!!!
This is the same thing that Paul says in Galatians when he says that “what matters” is “faith working through love.”
And who are some of the most difficult people to love?
Well, I suppose it would be those who can’t pay us back…
…or those who repulse us…
…those who are most unlike us…
…those whom it is most easy to discriminate against.
Perhaps that is one reason why Jesus went out of His way to honor those on the margins: the sick, the mentally ill, the social outcastes, those deemed by society as “no good rotten sinners,” and especially the poor.
Think about it, Jesus celebrated the gift of the widow who only put two small copper coins into the Temple treasury as if they had been worth two million dollars!!!
And even Jesus’ enemies noticed (although it often frustrated them to no end) that Jesus didn’t judge people by the positions they held or the money they made.
And then, in verse 5 of our Scripture Lesson for this morning, James says, “My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith?