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Will You (Really) Believe?

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 
James 1:22

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
James 2:26

Throughout Christian history, believers have wrestled with how to articulate the relationship between the free gift of salvation we have in Jesus through the Cross with texts like these from James’ letter that are often seen as conflicting with this gift. We see it in many churches too: preachers either telling us what obedience looks like without the grace and faith that fuels it, or telling us not to worry about obedience at all for all is grace and nothing is expected of us. Yet, neither message is what we find in the pages of Scripture.

I’m not going to pronounce the perfect explanation for the relationship between the free gift of grace given to us and the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). However, I want to suggest something that occurred to me in the last couple of weeks that has helped me bring the two sides of this particular coin together.

Consider the question: Do you believe in Jesus?
We might say yes, if asked. I hope that we do! Yet consider this question again with a little more context:

In the moment when you have to decide how to use the money in your wallet or your bank account, do you believe in Jesus?

In the moment that you respond to your spouse, colleague or friend, do you believe in Jesus?

As you invest your time and from the particular soapbox on which you are about to climb, do you believe in Jesus?

In every moment, every decision and every dilemma, I face this question: Will I believe in Jesus ? This is not about doing something “because the Bible says so” or “because it’s the Christian thing to do.” It is about faith. Will I choose the harder path, the way of forgiveness and generosity, the more humble way the thing Jesus asks of me as an expression that I believe in Him and not in my own way? Will I take a step of faith and act differently in order to risk believing that Jesus is who He says He is?

We hear the question “do you believe…?” and we so often think about our cognitive assent to a series of propositions. Yet that’s not what belief really is, certainly not as it appears in Scripture. It is tangible. It is tasted. It is lived. The verses above from James are challenging and yet they are also true.

So today, with all the moments it holds and all the decisions it will entail, will you (really) believe?
The Rev. Dr. Suse E. McBay
Associate for Adult Christian Education and Prayer Ministries