Wow, it’s been while. I was pretty much non-existent in July, being gone for two weeks on mission trips, taking some vacation, and spending time with my wife as she was out of school. Hopefully, I’ll get back into a semi-regular blogging pattern. Here’s my first attempt to get back at it.
I remember growing up and having lots of debates about beliefs versus actions. You probably experience the same thing. What’s more important: belief or actions? Typically, in contemporary protestant Christianity, beliefs win. We tend to go back and proof-text Ephesians 2:8-9 to support our claim: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
With such an approach, the emphasis in churches turns to doctrinal orthodoxy. We want to make sure that we and our friends are believing the right things because we know that actions cannot save us. To not believe rightly would make us a heretic, and no one wants to be a heretic.
Well, I’ve got news for you: we’re all heretics.
This summer I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no difference between belief and action. James chapter 2 and the words of Jesus (among other things) seem to make this pretty clear. You can tell what someone believes by what they do. And you should be able to tell what someone would do by what they believe.
Obviously, for many of us, that doesn’t seem to be the case. We say we believe that Jesus has forgiven and reconciled us, but we have trouble forgiving and reconciling with our family. We say we believe that following Jesus requires giving him our whole life, yet we are greedy, materialistic, and covetous. We say we believe that we should love our neighbor and be generous, but most of us barely blink an eye at a needy person or organization. So, it seems that our beliefs and actions are not congruent.
I say: we don’t really believe those things. Our actions provide a snapshot of our current beliefs at that exact second. It’s easy to say we believe that human beings are made in the image of God when we are studying Genesis, but a little more difficult when we are interacting with that really weird kid. But, it is within our interaction with that really weird kid that we learn our true beliefs.
If we really believed that sex outside of marriage was wrong, then it wouldn’t happen (And as a youth minister, I’ve heard plenty of times, “I know it’s wrong, but…”). If we really believed that Jesus forgave us of all the crap we have in our lives, forgiving others would be a snap. If we really believed that our treasure was in heaven, we would have a lot less stuff. But we don’t.
To me, orthodoxy is an eschatological reality towards which we are all striving. In the end, we will finally be “orthodox” and believe as we should. Until then, we are all just heretics.
I do believe that it is helpful to tell ourselves that we believe “X”, even if our actions don’t reflect it, because it reminds us of who we are trying to become. However, if actions and belief are the same thing, we will not be prideful and arrogant that we believe “X”, because in reality we simply do not.
Such an approach leads us to a humble orthodoxy. It seems to me that the truest form of Christianity will also be the humblest. And, I believe that 100%. Well, kind of.