The Diabetic and the Donut
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25
As Christians, we understand that we’re saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our relationship with God is a gift that we can’t earn by doing anything. Faith then isn’t just about following a bunch of rules. Rather it’s about having an authentic relationship with our creator. In our persistent desire to live however we want though, we mistakenly think that grace and forgiveness mean the string has been cut between action and consequence. As Christians, since it’s not about the rules, then we don’t have to follow all these old-fashioned laws, right? The ever-pragmatic James dismissed this kind of thinking in today’s passage. In it, he said that through following God’s plan, we find freedom and blessing.
Imagine if I were an overweight, donut-loving, diabetic who went to my doctor (I know – it doesn’t take that much imagination). I’d likely be told that I needed to change my diet, cutting out sugary snacks. I’d be told I needed to exercise and take my medications. If I followed the rules, I’d be healthier. If I didn’t follow the rules, I’d self-destruct. What if, at that point, I responded to my doctor – But I’m a Christian! I’m not saved by what I do. I’m saved by faith alone. It doesn’t matter what I eat! This may sound absurd, but it’s almost exactly what I did in my addiction. I thought I could use drugs, ask forgiveness later, and avoid consequences.
In the eternal sense, I may have a point. I may be diabetic, eat donuts, and still go to heaven. In this world though, if I follow God’s rules, I’ll be healthier and happier than if I simply do whatever I want. I’m not promised riches or toys if I eat healthy. I’m not promised that I’ll never have any problems. As a diabetic though, if I abandon my self-destructive nature, I’ll stop causing myself misery. Instead of pursuing death and pain, I’ll pursue life and health.
Our faith is absolutely about a relationship with the father, and we cannot earn it by doing good. That, however, doesn’t mean that our actions don’t matter. God loves us and wants what’s best for us. In our love for him, we should follow him, obeying the rules he made to govern the universe. To do so, often means we must abandon our impulsive nature so that we may pursue the healthy, love those around us, and do what is right. If we claim faith in God, we must follow him with our behavior.