Bam! That was the sound that came from outside as I worked at the sandwich station at the local Wendy’s Restaurant. Everyone ran out to investigate, only to discover a gruesome scene. A motorcycle had crashed into the back of a flatbed truck as it was turning on to the street. The rider met an unfortunate end because he decided to have a little fun by performing a wheelie down the street. It impacted the trailer, bending it in half, throwing the rider across the road. EMTs arrived, but there was nothing they could do. He was already dead.
Seeing a dead body was not shocking, but watching a death occur, so needlessly, left an impression. Just moments before, the rider was having a good time, and now his body lay there on the ground lifeless. Did he have a family? What about friends? Was someone expecting him? Maybe he was on his way to see someone special. It didn’t matter any longer. What lay there on the pavement was the shell of a life now gone.
James tells us, “As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead (2:26).” Martin Luther took issue with James because he thought the text contradicted the notion of being saved by grace as taught in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. It is understandable Luther might have come to such a conclusion given his life context, but he viewed this passage from the wrong perspective. James is telling us the same message as Paul. We are saved by grace through faith, but without actions, it is just a rotting corpse with no signs of life.
The love of Jesus in our hearts demands expression in our lives. If we claim to know him, it will be evident in the things we do. Faith without action is the husk of a dead man lying in the street. Without works to testify to it, there is no faith at all. How is your faith expressed in the way you live your life? I imagine that many of us claim to be faithful, but live in mediocrity. Sin has a hold of us, and when that life moment occurs, we respond in a way that doesn’t resemble the character of Christ.
Dan Kimball, a pastor from Santa Cruz, did a study about what people outside of the church thought of those inside the church. During an interview in the study, a young man said, “The love of the church doesn’t feel like love. It would be easy to dismiss the comment as naive, but might there be truth in the sentiment? What compels those outside of the church to embrace the church is the life of Jesus they see in the church. Without the life of Jesus, they see an empty husk discarded on the side of the road. When the struggle is to “build the kingdom,” the focus is on our works, which does not give life. The call of faith is to trust in God, every step, in all circumstances, resulting in a life of visible love.