Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sand castles in the sun

To the man who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, “So you believe that there is one God? That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell and shudder in terror!” For, my dear short-sighted man, can’t you see far enough to realise that faith without the right actions is dead and useless? Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Wasn’t it his action which really justified him in God’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar? Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners—that his faith was implemented by his deed? That is what the scripture means when it says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.’

A man is justified before God by what he does as well as by what he believes. Rahab who was a prostitute and a foreigner has been quoted as an example of faith, yet surely it was her action that pleased God, when she welcomed Joshua’s reconnoitring party and got them safely back by a different route.

Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul. James 2:21-26

 “But I say to all of you who will listen to me: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly.

 “As for the man who hits you on one cheek, offer him the other one as well!

And if a man is taking away your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you, and when a man has taken what belongs to you, don’t demand it back.”

 “Treat men exactly as you would like them to treat you.”

 “If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that, And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get your money back, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners and expect to get their money back. No, you are to love your enemies and do good and lend without hope of return. Your reward will be wonderful and you will be sons of the most high. For he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked!

 “You must be merciful, as your father in Heaven is merciful.”

 “Don’t judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don’t condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. Give and men will give to you—yes, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will they pour into your lap. For whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you.”

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and fail to notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when you cannot see the plank in your own? You fraud, take the plank out of your own eye first and then you can see clearly enough to remove your brother’s speck.”

Then he gave them an illustration—“Can one blind man be guide to another blind man? Surely they will both fall into the ditch together. A disciple is not above his teacher, but when he is fully trained he will be like his teacher.”

 “It is impossible for a good tree to produce bad fruit—as impossible as it is for a bad tree to produce good fruit. Do not men know what a tree is by its fruit? You cannot pick figs from briars, or gather a bunch of grapes from a blackberry bush! A good man produces good things from the good stored up in his heart, and a bad man produce evil things from his own stores of evil. For a man’s words will always express what has been treasured in his heart.”

 “And what is the point of calling me, ‘Lord, Lord’, without doing what I tell you to do?”

 “Let me show you what the man who comes to me, hears what I have to say, and puts it into practice, is really like. He is like a man building a house, who dug down to rock-bottom and laid the foundation of his house upon it. Then when the flood came and flood-water swept down upon that house, it could not shift it because it was properly built. But the man who hears me and does nothing about it is like a man who built his house with its foundation upon the soft earth. When the flood-water swept down upon it, it collapsed and the whole house crashed down in ruins.” Luke 6:27-49

Context is everything. And while there is a certain healthy beauty in taking one small bite, chewing it carefully while savoring its high and low notes and subtle undertones, sometimes you lose the big picture.

And the big picture with my “life verse,” Give and it shall be given unto you, is all about being kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Mercy. Not judging. Not condemning. Making allowances. Not examining specks in the eyes of others.

This was the big moment. Jesus had spent the whole night in prayer, and when the daylight came, he called his twelve disciples and then he took them onto a large plain, where there were crowds of other disciples, and explained to them what it was all about.

Then Jesus looked steadily at his disciples and said, “How happy are you who own nothing, for the kingdom of God is yours!

This is the kingdom of God.

Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul.

And today, may I help my kiddos dig deep down to the bedrock and lay firm foundations. And not merely dribble pretty patterns on sand castles in the sun.