Faith in Action
Faith in Action
James 2:14 – 26; Eph. 2:10
by Rev. Leny Jovita
We continue with our month-long celebration of Mission month and today we are celebrating Mission Sunday.
Having joined the two teams of Silliman University’s mission work in Naga, Cebu, I feel very exhausted and drained not only physically but more so emotionally. After visiting the different evacuation centers – six centers on the first team that distributed goods on Oct. 12, and another three evacuation centers as part of the Psychosocial Stress Processing on Oct. 15 to 18, my heart was so heavy because of the physical condition especially of the mothers and their children. My heart got even heavier upon hearing the testimonies and sharing of the youth and the children who were traumatized by a calamity, which could have been prevented.
Many of us believed that the landslide was a natural calamity, an effect of typhoon Ompong. But during our processing, and as I listened to the sharing of the victims, I could personally say that it was not a natural calamity. It was a tragedy caused by human beings who were in power and motivated by greed to acquire wealth even at the expense of God’s creation, where the less privileged and the poor were the ones who suffered and were greatly affected.
As we associated with the victims for barely 3 or 4 days, I could feel mixed emotions within them. Among the children the feeling was mostly fear that it may happen again. Among the adults it was anxiety, as they had no more place to go. Although they were being promised a relocation site, they will have to wait for six months. When we think about it, six months may be short, for time flies so fast. But for them who are using the bleachers and the floors to eat and sleep, it is a lifetime of agony. I could feel hatred and anger from some of the men and youth who analyzed the situation and the cause of the “supposed and believed-to-be natural calamity.”
Wherever I turned, I could see pain, agony and suffering of the victims and I felt so helpless. Yes, we were there to extend help, to offer the team’s expertise in coping and processing of their experiences. But I know it was not enough. There were only 60+ volunteers from our team against thousands of individuals that needed our help, individuals of all ages. But anyhow, I know that at least we were able to help some in their stress processing.
My heart was seemingly torn apart as we went to the “supposed landslide” site. It was my second time to be there, but still I could not hold back my tears and my anger as I saw how greed had destroyed God’s wonderful creation.
Points for Reflection
As I reflect on these experiences, which are very timely for our Mission month and Mission Sunday celebration, I find it difficult to reconcile the faith in God that we profess, and the faith that we practice in this world. For despite the great number of victims in need, only very few among our people responded. What, then, is faith for us?
In Hebrews 11, faith is described as the confidence that God’s word is true and the conviction that acting on that word will bring His blessing. The truthfulness of God’s word is the foundation of our faith and acting and living out this truth is the translation of our faith. Most of us Christians profess our faith in God. But how do we demonstrate our faith?
To profess faith in Christ as Savior and Lord but ignore the needs of our fellow human beings is inconsistent. According to the letter of James, true faith must be translated, must be demonstrated into action, for faith without works is dead.
How, then, can we put our faith into action?
First, when our faith becomes evidence. What I love about the letter of James is that he urges us to show our faith by the kind of life that we live. It’s as if I’m hearing him say to me, “Don’t tell me about your faith, show it to me!” True faith involves something more, something that can be seen and recognized: a changed life! That, in essence, is what James is saying to us in our text today: “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
How can a person show his faith without works? He can’t, for good works are an evidence of our faith. When we trust Christ, we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) Being a Christian involves trusting Christ and living for Christ. We receive the life from Christ, and we need to reveal that changed life. Our changed life becomes a living testament of our faith in Christ. Yet, this changed life will never become a testimony or a living witness for Christ if it has not done any good.
As we visited the evacuation centers one after another, and passed those victims in need, I remembered Jesus’ conversation with that rich young ruler in the Gospel of Mark 10:17 – 27. His life would have become a living testament, an evidence of his faith, had he followed Christ’s advice to sell his possessions and give these to the poor.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, each of us can become living testaments, living witnesses of God, if we allow ourselves to be used by God as His vessels, as His instruments in revealing his good works to others through our lives. True faith causes others to see Jesus in us because we are doing the things that Jesus did.
Second, when our faith is expressed with compassion. Verses 15-16 says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother/sister in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him/her? Dear children, let us not love with words on tongue but with actions and truth.” (1 John 3:17 – 18) As Christ’s believers, we have an obligation to help meet the needs of people, no matter who they may be. To help a person in need is an expression of love, and faith worked by love is compassion.
Our faith should be expressed by our compassion for others. When I heard what happened to the people in Naga, and learned that the UCCP churches in Cebu were campaigning for help, I asked our senior pastor if we could publish the campaign in our parish news. Despite the short notice on that 3rd Sunday of September, we received (positive) responses from individuals who sent their monetary and in-kind donations. On the last Sunday of September, I personally handed our donations to Naga UCCP, which was identified as the drop-in center for donations coming from the churches.
When Jesus saw the hungry crowd, he had compassion for them. Responding to the needs of others is an act of compassion which is an expression of our faith. It is good to know that we, as a church, are able to respond to the needs of others, sharing our resources.
Finally, when our faith involves service. We cannot just talk about faith; we’ve got to express it outwardly. What good is faith that does not reach out to those in need? That kind of faith is like that of the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 – 37), who saw the man in need and walked away from him and did nothing. Each had religious training…each had full understanding and knowledge of their faith, but neither of them paused to assist the dying man at the side of the road. Each of them would defend his faith, yet neither demonstrated that faith in loving works. We need to have a faith that shows the love of Christ in action.
Like the Levite and the priest, we too sometimes “postpone” our servanthood because of other priorities. We sometimes go to church first for our own spiritual nourishment but fail to act according to what God has called us to do. Like the Levite and the priest, we sometimes get too busy with the formal “things of God” to be aware of or to notice the real pressing needs of our neighbor. Or it can be the other way around: we find excuses why we cannot attend to church activities, or we do not consider helping others as God’s work that is as important as going to church. While it is important to do our priestly duties, like the Levite in the story, it is equally important to be like the Samaritan. Jesus did not say that helping weighs more than going to church. James in his letter is reminding us that our faith should be demonstrated in serving others.
I really appreciate the volunteers who selflessly offered their time (most of them were students who delayed their semestral break) just to volunteer to work on the team; the professionals (who are faculty members) who offered their expertise in processing facilitation. Despite the heat that we experienced and despite the inconvenience that they were going through, we heard no complaints from them.
Faith requires service because service is a translation of our faith. It is doing good to others. Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and in good works is a false declaration. That kind of faith is dead faith. “Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being alone.” (v. 17) True faith can never be by itself; it always brings life, and life produces good works. True faith causes us to reach out to those in need, as we offer ourselves through service.
So what is faith in action? Faith in action is responding to a certain event or incident with a combination of the mind, emotion, and the willingness to do it. We can only have faith in action when people see in our lives the very evidence of such faith, when we are a living witness to the faith that we believe in; when our faith is being expressed with compassion to others; and finally, when our faith is being converted into service.
As we continue to celebrate Mission month, let us put our faith into action not so much that men and women will praise us, but for the greater glory of our God. Amen.