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"Faith" rightly and wrongly defined

September 15, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 2:14-17

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.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Let’s clear up a basic confusion: James did NOT write these words to correct Paul’s teaching about God’s grace! “What James means by ‘faith’ in this passage…is the basic ancient Jewish meaning, the confession of God as ‘one’. This, he says, needs to translate into…Jesus-shaped action, to make any significant difference…. He is actually on the same page as Paul, who in his fiercest letter about faith and works defines ‘what matters’ as ‘faith working through love’ (Galatians 5.6).” *

  • In many early Christian congregations (as in many today) someone stood at the door as people left and said something like, “The peace of God go with you.” A lovely practice—as far as it goes. But James bluntly noted that it doesn’t nearly go far enough if a person doesn’t have enough to eat. What ways have you found to make extending God’s love to another person, not a way of letting yourself off the hook, but a motivation to take practical action?
  • Occasionally a person says something like, “I love Jesus’ beautiful teachings.” Fine, but that doesn’t make anyone a Christian. Jesus didn’t come to teach us a set of ideas. He came to call us to an all-encompassing way of life. Being a Christian means obeying Jesus’ call to actively live out the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself.” How has loving Jesus already changed your life? In what ways do you see a need for further growth?

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

Picture of Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

If you’ve been following the Kansas City Royals this year, you know that this hasn’t been a stellar season. It’s pretty exciting when we win a game, and when we do, the team jumps around celebrating as though we’ve just made the playoffs. Despite their losing record, I’m a Royals fan. I’ll watch the games. I’ll cheer them on. I’ll celebrate every win we can get.

This past year I took a small trip to Oklahoma City. In the hotel lobby was a man wearing a Royals shirt. It was really exciting to see another fan, especially outside the Kansas City metro. Without hesitation, I approached him and asked him if he’d been following the Royals this season. With a very questioning look, he responded with, “I’m sorry. What are you talking about?” “Your shirt,” I said. “It’s a Kansas City Royals shirt, so I’m assuming you’re a fan.” “Oh, I see. Nah, I’m not a fan. I just like the look of the shirt.” I was shocked and disappointed. I thought I had met a like-minded Royals fan, but he was really just a fan of the shirt.

I think it can be similar with faith. I’ve known people who are fans of the shirt, but they aren’t a fan of really following and trusting in Jesus. They’re “wear the shirt” Christians. If asked, they’ll say they’re Christians. They certainly believe in a heaven and that they are going there. They may even post prayers or faith-based graphics on social media. They do all of this while never living into the Christian faith. They’re just wearing the shirt.

I’ll even admit that there have been times in my faith journey where I felt I was just wearing the shirt. I claimed to be Christian. I could even talk a good talk. But when it came down to it, I wasn’t truly surrendering myself to Jesus. I wasn’t practicing my faith or regularly connecting with God. The shirt looked good, but what was behind the shirt was a depleted soul.

I wonder where you might be today. How’s your soul? Are you following God? Does your life reflect what you believe to be true? Or are you just wearing the shirt? If that’s where you are today, know that God sees beyond the façade. He’s not taking you at shirt value, because he knows that’s a watered-down version of what you’re meant to be. God loves you, and he’s longing to make a real connection with you. He’s asking you to trust in his goodness with all that you are and to live into life abundantly.

© 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.