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Action, not just words

January 16, 2023

Daily Scripture

James 2:14-26

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.
18 Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action. 19 It’s good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. 20 Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? 21 What about Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 See, his faith was at work along with his actions. In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. 23 So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous [Genesis 15:6]. What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. 24 So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them on by another road? 26 As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.

As our country remembers the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this week’s GPS is built around six short quotations Dr. King might have used on social media (had it been available in his day) and their Biblical roots.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Even the finest talk, James said, “needs to translate into… Jesus-shaped action, to make any significant difference.” * Dr. King (not yet a national figure) led the Montgomery, AL bus boycott, starting in December 1955. He said participants’ action grew from faith: “It is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian…faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” **

  • In many early Christian congregations (as in many today) one or more people stood at the exit door and told departing worshipers something like, “The peace of God go with you.” A lovely practice—as far as it goes. But Dr. King, like James, bluntly noted that it should move us to seek ways to actually relieve a person’s need. What ways have you found to make offering God’s love to another person, not a way to let yourself off the hook, but a reason to take practical action?
  • God is one: This is the Jewish profession of faith known as the Shema Israel: “Israel, listen!” (Deuteronomy 6:4).” *** Through Greeks, Romans and other peoples’ oppression, faithful Jews had died rather than deny that “God is one.” The right words (even the centrally right words) did not alone make them citizens of God’s kingdom. We sometimes call that “lip service.” How did James’ teaching here align closely with what Jesus himself taught (cf. Matthew 7:21-23)?

Lord Jesus, shape my life into a living, walking, breathing exhibit of what you meant by “love your neighbor as yourself.” Help me not abstractly think, but concretely live, my love for you. Amen.

GPS Insights

 Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood serves on the Worship Experience team at Resurrection. She loves all things related to worship and enjoys working with our talented team of staff and volunteers. One of her favorite things to read about and study are stained glass windows, and she considers herself very blessed to work and worship in a place with such a magnificent window.

I love words. I’ve spent most of my adult life studying and teaching the English language. Reading and writing and editing have always been practices that I enjoy. When I was younger, I used to want to be a speech writer for the President of the United States. I wanted to put words together skillfully and thoughtfully and masterfully to form speeches that would inspire people to think differently, encourage them, give them hope, and even usher them into some sort of action that brought about positive change.

When I think of the greatest speeches of the past, I think of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, and even the Declaration of Independence (which was actually written with the intent of being read aloud and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautifully written documents in history). The authors of these documents made them memorable, not only through the crafting of words, but also in delivery and execution. Behind each word there was passion, conviction, hope, and love. They spoke and wrote words that are timeless because the words seeped into the hearts and minds of those who heard them and read them. People were moved to make change and followed the example of those who embodied that change.

As powerful and beautiful as words can be, they tend to lose importance and meaning when the author or speaker doesn’t put action and example behind them.

On the other hand, we all know that words can uplift and encourage, but they can also belittle and destroy. Today, I find that it is much easier to hurt others with things we say and type because we are able to do it without seeing the other person, and we somehow feel less guilty when we hit send or post. Social media allows us to hide behind a veil of perceived secrecy or anonymity because we will never know all of the people who will read what we post to Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook.

I will, most likely, never write speeches for the President of the United States or even the president of anything, but I can make an impact with what I choose to type on social media. I can choose to encourage and uplift, to love and care, to grow and learn, and to take action of my own that fosters positive change. But it’s more than just writing and posting, it’s what I put behind every word that makes a difference. I can work to daily make the choice to filter what I want to say or type through the lens of love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (New Living Translation *) says this:

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

It seems to me that if I filter my words through the wisdom of these verses, then perhaps what I post on social media and how I choose to use technology can become tools for loving my neighbor and sharing the love of Christ.

New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 18). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

** From’ve%20never%20been%20on,I%20will%20not%20be%20content.

*** Patrick J. Hartin, study note on James 2:19 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 457NT.