~ A psychologist noted, "Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit."
~ A self-esteem therapist said, "Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit."
~ An optimist said, "Things could be worse."
~ A pessimist claimed, "Things will get worse." Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.
All too often, we spend too much energy on words and not enough on action… although I suspect Jesus would also express words of love. I believe Jesus came to offer humanity a fresh approach to our ways of relating to each other… an approach grounded in love.
Embedded in this love, however, is action; in other words, we need to be living out what we believe. In the gospels, as well as in Paul’s writing (and especially in James’ letter to the church), the point is made that genuine love will be apparent in what you do.
A few years ago, Richard Beck introduced me to a new word which embraces this “love in action” concept: orthopraxy. Beck contrasts “orthopraxy” with “orthodoxy”, and he emphasizes that orthodoxy is “believing the right things,” while orthopraxy is “living the right way” (how our faith is lived out). In essence, it doesn’t matter what we say we believe if we do not “practice what we preach.”
Time after time, Jesus tells us to “lift people out of the pits of life.” As scripture points out, “Jesus declared that we will be judged according to how we treat the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46) and that the wise man is the one who practices the words of Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27).
Also, if we look closely, every “judgment scene” in the Bible is portrayed as a judgment based on works… not a test of proper theology, polity, doctrine or orthodoxy.
I realize that knowing Scripture and doctrine are important components to faith, but (as James declared), “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)
Therefore, may we be a people of faith who “preach the gospel at all times, using words (only) if necessary.” (Francis of Assisi)