Summary: Walking the talk of authentic Christianity
Walk the Talk
The story is told of five frogs are sitting on a log that is floating in a pond. The five frogs have a committee meeting and decide that they are going to jump into the water. So how many frogs are there on the log? The answer is five because talking about a jump into the pond is not the same as actually doing it.
I am told that professors in business schools sometimes use this joke to communicate the difference between stated intentions and actual behaviour: it is even the title of a book on the subject.
You see, there is an awful lot of difference between what people say that they will do and what actually happens. And is not just in business, it is in every aspect of life.
And it applies equally to our lives as Christians. And it is nothing new because that is just what James is saying in the middle of our reading from the first chapter of his letter. V22. ‘ Be doers of the word, not hearers only.’ RSV. (Do not merely listen to the word… do what it says NIV). In other words, you’ve got to walk the talk. As Christian frogs we should jump off the logs and put what we believe into practice in our lives. As Christians, we have to walk the talk.
How should we walk the talk?
Well, if walking the talk is important, the first question we need to ask is ‘ how should we walk the talk?’. How do we do this? Fortunately James gives us some clear instructions here to help us.
First of all, James says that we need to
Avoid the deceptions. You see, human beings are very good at manipulating the facts to suit our own prejudices, or to avoid uncomfortable truths. He uses the word ‘deceive’ three times – vv 16, 22, 26. And what James is saying here is ’For goodness sake open your minds and stop kidding yourselves’. Don’t deceive yourselves.
There are many ways in which we do deceive ourselves about the truths of Christian living. We deceive ourselves by enthusiasm and the amount of energy we put into church activities. We deceive ourselves by our celebration of our spiritual heritage. We deceive ourselves by our church rituals and ceremonies. And we deceive ourselves because we try to convince our selves that this is good Christian living. But it isn’t so because these activities do not of themselves help us to walk the talk. So we need to avoid the deceptions that we so easily fall prey to.
Secondly, James says that we need to
Remove the obstructions. What he is saying is that there are things in our lives that obstruct us, stop us walking the talk as Christians. There are things in all of our lives which act as a barrier to us walking the talk. There are things in our lives are clearly not putting what we believe into practice. James gives some examples:
Get rid of all moral filth v 21
Keep a tight rein on your tongue v26
Don’t get angry v19
This list is not exhaustive! You see it is easy to deceive ourselves over this. It’s very easy to deceive ourselves by saying that ‘ I do not get angry’, or ‘ I have very careful about what I say’, and think that that is all right. But there are other obstructions that we may need to remove. It may be pride, or lying, or maybe some other thing that we know is wrong and is a significant obstruction in our lives. Feeling bad or saying ’I’m sorry’ is not good enough.
We need to deal with the obstructions in our lives. We need to remove the obstruction.
But getting rid of obstructive things in our lives is not enough. We also need to
Obey the instructions. One of the great things about the Protestant tradition is the focus on the word of God. We ensure that the Bible is read in our services, and we preach from it. We are going to be staring a Bible study group in the autumn. And it is easy to deceive ourselves that we are centred on the word of God - without doing anything about it. It is easy to deceive ourselves that we are listening to the word of God, it is easy to deceive ourselves that we know the word of God, and it is easy to deceive ourselves that we have the intentions to put the word of God into practice. But what James says is that you actually have to let it get inside you. ‘Humbly accept the word planted in you’ v21. In other words, our knowledge of the word of God has to be so much more than just superficial. It is not just head knowledge, but heart knowledge too. The word of God has to be an integral part of our lives. And when it is integral to our lives we do what James encourages us to do. He says ‘Don’t just listen to the word, do what it says’ v22. So when the word of God is integral to our lives, we obey its instructions and put it into practice. We can walk the talk.