“It is not enough to say that the right will ultimately triumph; if we claim to be righteous we should help make the right triumph.” – B.T. Roberts, Ordaining Women
If you have been in the church for any significant length of time you are most likely aware of the passage in the book of James, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (Jam 2:17) This is one of those passages that people affirm but often find uncomfortable.
In the Protestant tradition, we have inherited an “animosity” for this verse. Luther, the “founder” of the Protestant tradition, despised this particular book, calling it an “epistle of straw”. He was so focused on the unmerited grace of God that the book of James made him uncomfortable. I can just imagine how much Luther must have squirmed when he read James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Much could be said about this particular verse, but it is beyond the scope of this post to address that particular topic.
I simply want to emphasize the call to action that is inherent in the Christian faith. The quote above from B.T. Roberts, the founder of the Free Methodist Church, expresses this call to action quite succinctly. If we believe that the good will triumph, it is not enough to sit on our hands and twiddle our thumbs. Instead, we must help bring this about.
I suppose it is at this point that some people might suggest that God doesn’t need our help. This is a point that I wholeheartedly affirm; if God created the heavens and the earth, the cosmos, with a word, I don’t think that he needs our help in bringing about the good in the world. However, God instead invites us to participate in his plan for the restoration of the world. God, as James expresses, grants us specific, saving grace, by faith, and as a result we are invited to further God’s kingdom on earth. That is a great responsibility, but also a great privilege!
I think that this is especially prevalent in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. He writes that we are his “ambassadors” and that God makes his “appeal through us” (2 Cor 5:20, emphasis added). If that’s not convincing enough for you, Paul goes on in chapter six to suggest that we work with God, that we are God’s coworkers! (2 Cor 6:1)
This is the call for every person who claims to be a follower, a disciple, of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to be workers of good in the world, promoting the reconciliation and restoration of the Lord. We are called to not simply be hearers of God’s commands, but doers of God’s commands. (Jam 1:22)
And, ultimately, if you claim Christ and do not live a life of growing fruitfulness, an evaluation of your faith may be in order, because if you do not have works your faith is lifeless and needs a “kickstart”.