Monday, 5 March 2012

Putting Our Faith Where Her Mouth Is

Photo Credit: US National Archives
Flickr Creative Commons
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
(James 2: 14-17; NIV)

I have the privilege of working for a faith-based organization. While it has Christian roots, and I too am a Christian, we are also very different in our understanding of some of the key doctrines of the faith. For some, that might be a problem. For some, that problem might be severe enough to keep them from even considering working for an organization such as this. For some, it’s all about the differences as opposed to what we have in common. Thankfully, I do not count myself among the “some” for whom this might be a problem.

Sometimes it is more important to focus our attention on the things that unite rather than those that divide.

One of the most profound things that this organization taught me is that Christian “service” knows no denominational borders. Christian service is not about whether you and I agree or disagree in our theology. In truth, real Christian service transcends, and even trumps, all doctrines and theological points of view. Ultimately, real Christian service crosses all religious and even atheistic borders. Real Christian service is about meeting the needs of people where they’re at.

We discovered that one of the needs in our community concerns lunches, or more specifically, the lack of lunches, that many school children have. I still have a hard time understanding how, in this land of plenty, there are still children who regularly go to school without enough to eat. It just boggles my mind. Apparently it boggled my employer’s mind too, and enough so that they chose to actually “do” something about it, as opposed to only talking about the problem.

Talk is cheap. Someone is quoted to have said, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

So rather than just talk, talk, and talk some more, something was actually done about it. Faith, however it is to be understood, was put into action. Every school day, several people at work take time out of their regular morning routines to put together twenty healthy lunches. I then have the honour of delivering these lunches to the school that we’ve partnered with.

The thing about Christian “service” is that it is contagious. As it turns out, another affiliated institution is also now on board, and a third is also about to start; each also making another twenty lunches for hungry school children. Together we are now making sixty lunches daily for needy children in three schools. Wow! One cannot help but wonder what’s next.

Could it be that maybe it is time to stop the blame game?

Photo Credit: Jeffery Beall
Flickr Creative Commons
Now, we can get mad at the government if we want to. We can balk at education cut backs. We can blame parents for not looking after their children properly. We can point fingers at social service agencies, but at the end of the day, for every time we point a finger at someone else, there are always three fingers pointing back at us.

None of this is about whose fault it is that we have poverty and hungry children in our society. Rather, it is all about the condition of your heart and my heart. Do you really care? Do I? If so, then let’s prove it, and not just talk about it.

What has all this taught me? It has taught me that, though I always enjoy a good theological debate, a time comes when we have to put out faith where little Susie’s mouth is. It has taught me that there comes a time when little Johnny’s hunger is actually more important than whether you or I are right in our understanding of this or that doctrine. It has taught me that there comes a time when, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Is there an application in this?

Yes. Though I have the privilege of working for an employer who, not only believes in giving back to the community, but who actually does something about it, it still also remains my job to do this. But what about my personal life after work? What about those of you who do not work for employers like mine? What can we learn from this?

What I learned from this is that Bible studies and mid week fellowship groups are fine. I learned that there is nothing wrong with following the teaching of a certain pastor or gifted author. I learned that it’s not about what church you go to, or even if you go to a church at all. Jesus taught the disciples and the multitudes, as did the apostles teach those who followed them.

But just as there came a time when Jesus sent them out two by two (Mark 6:7), so too there comes a time for our practicum and the putting into action the faith that we profess to have. Unfortunately for too many of us today, we are content to simply sit there passively week after week going over the same basic lessons, but never getting to the application of the lesson out in the real world.

What has this school lunch program taught me? Besides the obvious that we need to help the less fortunate, and perhaps especially the children, it taught me that it’s time for us to all crawl off the pews, lay the Bibles and theology books down, and start “Putting Our Faith Where Her Mouth Is.”  

That’s the way I see it anyway.

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