Do you ever get a specific piece of Scripture stuck in your brain? And once you do, you see challenges and opportunities for it everywhere? This past week James 2:18 (NLT) has been hitting me: Now some may argue, "some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds." On my initial reading, it seemed so basic I did not think about it too much. But the next few times I read it through I realized it is basic, but it has great depth as well. And it became more of a challenge. First, notice that James is talking about showing faith. Showing does not mean to prove it, but rather to exhibit it. Next, note how James doesn't say "I will show you my faith by attending a church" or "I will show you my faith by avoiding sin." It is good deeds which exhibit faith. Of course attending church and avoiding sin are important, but they are just a part of the response aren't they? Works don't earn us eternal life, but they are important to who we are and who God wants us to be. In his book James: Faith that Works, Kent Hughes notes: "Faith and works are like the wings of a bird. There can be no real life, no flight, with a single wing, whether works or faith. But when the two are pumping together in concert, their owner soars through the heavens."
Here's the thing, James isn't saying anything we don't already know is he? I don't think there are many people living in America, Christian or not, who doesn't think this is a major part of what Christianity is. Or should be. Our faith in Christ reflected in what we do and who we are. And yet are good deeds what Christians are known for in the US? How can we show our faith to the world if it is not? To show someone our faith does not mean to prove it with words. It means to exhibit it through actions. To demonstrate it. Now the media doesn't help a whole lot, you can't turn on the morning news without seeing negativity and Christians seem to generate our fair share if it. But on the other hand, if Christians were better about doing good deeds, perhaps people would think about some Christians they know and dispute the negativity.
Want an example? Remember a few years back when people decided to boycott Chick-Fil-A because they did not support gay marriage? The big Christian response was to organize nights to eat chicken sandwiches as a show of support. Imagine for a minute if the Christian response was to take all that media attention and organize nights to feed the homeless. Buy THEM a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. To show America that whatever we feel about homosexuality is just a small part of who we are. To show America that what defines us is our love for God, our faith in Him, and what that response looks like. (And what it looks like is much more than spending money to feed ourselves.) To be known for what we stand for, not what we stand against.
So now you are probably asking yourself "well what good deed is Crosswalk doing?" It's simple, we are trying to help create opportunities for the church (all of us together) to do good deeds in ways you may not normally have access to: This Saturday is another Refuge where we will be serving food and holding a worship service for the hungry at Washington Park. E-mail Pastor Gabe if you want to volunteer. Pastor Angel is training people to visit prisons and equip inmates for reentry to society. E-mail Pastor Angel for more information. Our annual Trick or Treat is coming at the end of the month. This is a service to the community to give kids a fun, safe place to trick or treat and have fun. It is something for the entire church to get involved with. This Sunday we will have sign ups in the parlor and bins to collect wrapped candy for the kids. There is a team of Crosswalkers who visit people who can't leave their homes - email John Strole if you would like to be trained for that. Even within the church we have opportunities such as food prep on Wednesday nights and serving coffee on Sundays. E-mail me if you can help there. And with the holidays coming up, there are lots of great opportunities: We will be partnering with Sunnyvale Community Services to provide food and gifts for people in need (more information on that will be coming soon.) Know someone alone for Thanksgiving? Invite them to your house. Have some spare blankets? Go to St. James park in San Jose and give them to someone sleeping outside. There are Crosswalkers who volunteer time with several non-profits in the area. Just this morning I saw someone pray with a crying child. I love it, the opportunities are everywhere!
I have no doubt this Scripture was stuck in my head for a reason. The passage before it, James 2:17 says, So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. I don't feel challenged about whether I do enough good deeds, but rather if my faith produces good deeds. Neither faith nor its resulting good deeds can be forced. Good deeds should not simply be about attending this event or that event, they should be an outward reflection of our heart for God. Something that is constant in our lives. They aren't for show. They aren't to gain entry to heaven. They aren't out of obligation or duty. They start with faith. Faith in Jesus produces good deeds. What is your faith producing?
Trying to Follow,