“Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). It is tempting to quote this verse alone. But the passage it comes from lists what the great characters of the Bible did with their faith. Faith and action weren’t just passing acquaintances, but their lifelong companions.
Faith compels action
Central to the Christian message is a personal belief in the claims of Jesus Christ. But Christianity’s individualised faith also hides a trap within – it can disconnect us from the actions that should demonstrate it. Comforted by our own salvation, satisfied by token expressions of faith, and blessed by our relative wealth, putting our faith into action can be ignored or at least minimised. But every aspect of the gospel actually screams: Live it! Act on it! The Apostle Paul’s motivation is that Christ’s love compels him to no longer to live for himself but for Him who died for us all (2 Cor 5:14-15). The motivation is not a belligerent Biblical command but a heartfelt compulsion to share God’s love with the world. Our faith in the transforming power of the gospel compels us beyond belief into action.
Faith perfects action
Anyone can love and serve the needs of others. It’s part of what it means to be human. What makes the difference for us is our faith. Not only does our faith provide the motivation for action, it also informs and perfects how we do it. As Christians, we represent Christ in our service for others. Jesus is the one we look to, as Saviour and as exemplar. His life gives us a template for action, specifying our goals and testing our motives. Running around trying to prove our faith to God or others only leads to frustration or failure. Instead, we measure our actions against the tenets and experience of our faith as exemplified by the life of Jesus.
Action inspires faith
Seeing God at work in our often inadequate attempts to serve is a great inspiration to our faith. Stepping out in faith, however tentatively, unleashes the opportunity of seeing God at work. Faith is no more than a theory in our lives before we do anything with it. Real faith puts us at risk. Real action is the only way to develop our faith.
We have much to learn from Christians in Asia and the Arab world whose faith in action can put their lives in danger. Sharing their journeys of faith stretches ours, giving us the privilege of learning from each other and together walking with Jesus amongst the poor and marginalised.
So, why not?
So what stops us from putting our faith into action? Is it lack of conviction that the gospel is really transformational? Sure, Christianity doesn’t have a monopoly on caring for others. Is it fear that our finances or safety will be threatened? Yes, they will be. Does social or family pressure to preserve certainty play a part? Of course. Faith by definition is a belief in the unknown, and that can be scary. Is it a lack of confidence in our abilities? Living and serving in a cross-cultural context is known to challenge our capacity, resilience and skills.
So when all of these fears threaten to paralyse my action I look two ways. First, I look at the world; particularly those regions where unspeakable pain and suffering exist not just for a moment but as a way of life with no means escape. I’ve lived there and am forever changed by these wonderful people. Then I look through the eyes of Jesus and imagine his response to their suffering as His call to me. I need to do something about God so loving the world. Following in the footsteps of Jesus is putting faith into action.
Reflection shared by a returned Partner, who served for eight years in the Middle East.