Faith and Good Works

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It is not enough to say that one has faith. One can say, ʺI believe,ʺ and yet turn around and treat others out of jealousy and unrighteous anger. It is possible to say that God is my redeemer, but then in my daily life be driven by things like greed, or selfish ambition. If that is all that my faith is, then it can not save me. But if my faith moves me undeniably and willingly to do good works of mercy, forgiveness, and service toward all others, then my faith is real, meaningful, and efficacious.

James tells us in his letter that it is when we ʺdoʺ our faith in love for all others, when we live our faith publicly, with every part of our lives, it is then that we are living lives destined for eternity. It is not just in saying I believe, but in living publicly what I believe, that I model Christ’s salvation in the world. If my faith in Jesus Christ is truly from above then it will be, ‘…pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. (James 3:17) This is the true wisdom, indeed.

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Here is the kicker: ʺWhere jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.ʺ (James 3:16) Does this not smack of the reality that we are all familiar with in this world. Here is a good question: If all Christians truly had faith, not just the faith of words, but the wise faith that James talks about here, would not the world be different? The truth is that faith is too often expressed in words, without the good works that ought to naturally flow from that faith.

That the world suffers still from this disconnect between words and deeds is a fact. It is not a new fact either. Every Christian struggles throughout his or her life to match the words of his or her faith with the wise deeds of constant peaceableness, gentleness, willing compliance to the will of God, fullness of mercy to all, with deep sincerity. Still, we also know that we fail at times, in varying degrees, as well. But (and we can give eternal thanks for this) we also know that we can be forgiven for our failures. If we admit to our failures and feel sincere sorrow for them, and turn to Jesus for his loving mercy, we can be assured that it will be there for us. In doing this (which is an act of faith as well) we can come to know the true peace of his forgiveness. We know that in the forgiveness of Jesus there is also the grace that we need to try and try again to ʺpractice what we preach.ʺ

Let us pray for the grace, then, to live our faith, not just to speak of it. In this we will be doing the will of God. And in doing the will of God in pure faith, we are showing that we are saved.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.