Faith Works: Why Christians are Doers

| December 9, 2012

Christians are doers. Political activists. Like William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury. Social justice pioneers. Like Elizabeth Fry and George Mueller. Spiritual reformers. Like Martin Luther and John Wesley. Informed, energised, and involved. And rightly so.

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This reality, however, is always under threat. Some weeks ago I published an article on Deputy Michelle Mulherin’s “Fornication Fiasco” in Dáil Éireann. Underneath the colourful particulars, the net worth of her speech could be summarized in one word: monastic. Have religious convictions? Sit down. Shut up! Stay quiet. Paint the walls and ceiling in your monastery. But don’t attempt to ruffle the outside world.

Nothing could be more unscriptural. Why?

1. The whole canon of Scripture calls men and women of faith servants of God, especially the Old Testament. Moses was a servant of God who led the Israelites out of slavery to a dictatorial dynasty. Joseph was an economic strategist who brought life and health to the beleaguered nation of Egypt. Daniel served as an arch-adviser in four different political realms: two Babylonian kings and 2 Medo-Persian kings. Their enduring influence has inspired generations of Christians to leave a mark for the God they love in they society they live in.

2. Jesus Christ summarized the activity of the Christian life in a single dynamic phrase: the kingdom of God. In the most action-packed gospel of all, the Gospel of Mark, Christ’s first recorded words are: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mk. 1:15) Recognition of the benevolent kingship of God injects in the redeemed a passion for social justice as well as spiritual truth. The late Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at Edinburgh University, James S. Stewart, declared:

“Jesus…came with his master thought, glorious and thrilling, world-shaking and world-transforming: ….the kingdom of God.[…] He headed no social revolution, and he legislated for no current social problems; but he brought and imparted a spirit that was bound to set men crusading against social injustice everywhere. It is in this way that Jesus has been the driving power of all noble social service for nineteen centuries.” (p.126, The Teaching of Jesus Christ)

3. James presents a clearer case than any other New Testament epistle that faith works. Picture, he says, a dead corpse. That, he says, is what faith without works looks like: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26) Living faith is a living body. It moves. It acts. It crusades. It campaigns. Its alive! Faith works. It cannot but work. Why? Because of what God as already done. As bestselling Christian author Timothy Keller says, truly understanding Christianity “will profoundly reshape our lives. We will not be able to live in a selfish, cowardly way. We will stand up for justice and sacrifice for our neighbour. And we won’t mind the cost of following Christ when we compare it to the price he paid to rescue us.” (p.122, The Prodigal God)

Ultimately, the reason Christians are doers is because God is a doer. He not only created the world, he sustains it (Col. 1:17). He not only created man and placed him on the earth, He sent him a Saviour. “In him,” the Apostle Paul declared, “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:29). He is the great and only Initiator. Prolific writer F.W.Boreham quipped: “Nothing delights God more. He is an inveterate beginner. Having once fashioned a beginning, it became His divine habit. He is always doing it. He begins again with every morning, with every Spring, with every baby born.” (Dreams at Sunset)

Christians do. Why should the pioneering, engineering, transforming, radiating spirit of true Christianity die?

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