I’m working on an article on personal relationships. In that article I’m going to move beyond the “why” to the “how”. How do we put our faith into action? How do we love our communities through service? I share a few ways to do this in my book United, but I realize not everyone will read the book and so I’m excited to share these thoughts in an article. But I find myself hesitant. I’m hesitant because I don’t think we’ve fully embraced or been captured by the “why”. As James said, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2: 26). Playing on these words, I think Scripture also proves that work without faith is dead.
In the area of racial reconciliation (and really any service with the bent towards justice) it can quite easily turn into a labor of checklists rather than a labor of love. My hesitance in giving anyone a list of things they can or should do resides in the fact that I’m not sure we fully understand things like: imago dei and how what we do and say can and does strip individuals from this God-given declaration—we are all made in His image; and the gospel and the fact that it is for all nations and when we exercise certain practices we could actually be spreading the prosperity gospel rather than the race-transcending, barrier breaking, amazing Good News. Action is good and needed but if we use it as a check list then move on, that is not love. If we use it to make ourselves feel better–“I’ve now done my civil duty” we might think– that is not love.
What I want you and me to work hard not to do is be busy servants, prophetic voices, working soldiers, and yet working hard in the name of something other than love. Love motivates us to understand the why before we act. Love motivates us to truly attempt to know and understand our neighbor before we march. Love helps us serve in a manor worthy of the gospel. I want that love. I pray for that love and I don’t want to burden you with to-dos until you first ask, do I love? We can ask God to transform our hearts by gospel and renew our minds by the Spirit. We need to continually ask the Lord for fresh faith for action.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3).