I am a sold-out, born-again Christian. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God given to humanity as a gift, full of wisdom about how we should live our lives. I have read the Bible cover to cover many times over the years, and I know what it says. So, what is my excuse for not doing what it says to do?
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22)
So, I have been fooling myself. I try to stick to the ten big ones, and I practice mercy, forgiveness, and grace. This morning, I wondered, “how would those closest to me describe my faith?” I squirmed a bit in contemplating the possible answers.
They know I am a Christian, and they know I spend time in the word. Still, if my kids or closest friends were asked to name the times I did as Jesus would do, would they have clear examples?
Sure, they could talk about a vacation a few years ago that we turned into a mission trip. I hope they could say that I pray fervently for them because I do. I am hopeful that they would say that I know I am a sinner, and I work hard never to judge others for their sin. Those are my best examples of faith in action, and they are not enough.
I lost a friend to cancer recently. She was the strongest woman I have ever known, and her faith manifested in big and small ways. She gave her life to serving others and was a genuine light in her community.
When she received her diagnosis, she used it to reach even more people for Christ. She never stopped praising our Heavenly Father, and in the darkness of cancer and leaving her family far too soon, she continued to be a light. I want a faith that shines like that.
I want my actions to show what my heart holds so close. Why is it so hard to live a life that emulates Christ? If I, as a mature adult and Christian, struggle with this, then how do I expect my young adult and teenage kids to walk in their faith?
So, this is my call to action for myself. Do better. I can’t expect from my children what I don’t do well myself. My most profound prayer is that they will each plant their own roots in faith and that those roots will grow deep and strong to see them through the storms of life.
We live in a strange time when Christians are being marginalized. We are painted as judgmental, intolerant, indoctrinated, and often hateful. Unfortunately, our critics are not entirely wrong. “Christian” is a label that describes a vast group of different people who believe the Bible to be true and that Jesus came to die on a cross for our sins.
We come from all walks of life. We cover the entire socio-economic scale, our skin covers ever shade, and we are young, old, and everywhere in between. We are not one person nor one mind, but it only takes on Christian acting in a critical way to feed the misconceptions about who we are.
I know far too many people who have been wounded by the church and by Christians. These are people who walk away from their faith because they are deeply hurt by judgment or perceived hypocrisy. I want those people to know that the church is made up of fallible human beings who are broken sinners, just like the rest of the world.
When you turn your back on your faith because of how you have been treated, your faith was in people or an institution. Instead, we are called to plant our faith in God, not the world.
The Bible also doesn’t sugar-coat what living a life of faith will be like. We are warned it will not be easy. Time and again, the Bible describes it as trouble, suffering, and other unpleasant adjectives. The Word is filled with examples of people who are called to lay down all they hold dear to cling to their faith.
“I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In the world, you have trouble and suffering, but take courage — I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
I have strayed from a living a life that firmly reflects my faith, and in deviating from that path, I risk destroying my testimony. After all, if you can’t look at my life and know that something is different, then why would you care what I have to say about faith?
A life that bears the fruit of faith will be a life filled with mercy, grace, kindness, and humility. Some time ago, I wrote an article genuinely seeking dialogue with atheists and other non-believers.
I am ashamed to say that I expected a heated backlash and anger. Instead, I was met with thoughtful and intelligent replies that forever changed the way I view non-believers. Only through conversations like this and respect for one another will we ever build bridges and change the negative perception many have of people of faith.
My actions will always speak louder than words, and I want my actions to reflect on who I strive to be daily. I know I will fall short, but that is no excuse to give up. As with all things in life, failure only happens when you cease to try.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:23–24)
That is the beauty of faith. It was never intended to be perfect because it is manifested in broken and imperfect people. Today, I have spilled out my faith in words, but now it is time to show my faith in my actions as well.