Faith in Action
Many words have been written reminding us that our faith needs to be an active one. St. James, in his scriptural letter, rhetorically asks each of us the very blunt question, “Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?” Ever since then, the church has continued to remind us that a faith that doesn’t reach out into the world to perform acts of charity is a very dry, dead thing.
But today I’d like to think about the flip side of “faith in action”; is there a danger of putting too much emphasis on action, and too little on faith? The evangelists give testimony to the fact that, prior to going out and preaching the good news, Jesus would always go off by Himself to pray. All of our Lord’s actions were steeped in prayer and laser-focused on fulfilling the will of the Father.
Is it possible that our well-intentioned actions could become detached from our faith? Everything Christ did, every miracle He performed, every word He spoke, was directed towards the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the call for repentance, and the spreading of the gospel. If our acts of kindness are not likewise aimed true, we may run the risk of inverting our priorities, such that works become the end goal, and faith becomes merely a convenient tool to achieve that goal. We run the risk of elevating corporal, worldly acts to primacy, and pushing the will of the Father into a mere supporting role.
There are other perils if we let slip the connection between our actions and our faith. It seems obvious that our love of Christ should lead our efforts to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoner; but what of our more mundane actions: the way we treat our family members, the media we choose to consume, or our engagement with people whose views differ from our own? Should not those actions also be harnessed to our faith?
As we reflect on how our faith and actions relate in all aspects of our lives, let us dwell again on the model Christ has set for us, that all our works should be preceded by, and driven by, a profound life of prayer.
– Bill Merlock