Rock Jumping and Faith
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? . . . So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
My kids and I have long enjoyed rock jumping – leaping off a stony ledge into a body of water. We’ve got a few favorite spots, the highest of which is around 40 feet, a height which pushes the limits of our bravery. There’s one spot that I’ve been to many times, where there’s a ledge twice that high – 80 feet. I’ve only ever seen two people leap from it. One was fine and the other one landed wrong and came out of the water coughing up blood. I’ve been up there. I’ve wanted to jump. I believe I could do it. I really do. When it comes down to it though, I’ve been afraid and unwilling to take the leap. I believe in my head that I’d be fine, but I know the consequences of being wrong, so I’ve not practiced faith in my abilities by taking the leap.
That James said, is the difference between belief and faith. The apostle Paul wrote that we’re saved only through faith, not by our actions (Ephesians 2:8-9). We’re saved by trusting in God, not by doing certain rituals or behaviors. James pointed out however, that if our faith is real, it must impact the way we live. We’re not saved by doing certain things, but if we’re truly transformed, there must be behavioral evidence of that transformation in our lives.
I’ve always believed in God. However, I’ve often lived for myself. If you looked at my life during my addicted years, you would have found a lot of evidence that I simply followed me. But I believed in God!
James said that simply believing in God isn’t faith. Acknowledgment of his existence isn’t enough. Even the demons believe—and shudder (James 1:19)! If we have faith in God, it must impact our behavior. We must daily abandon our will for his. Often, we mark our so-called faith by what we don’t do. We don’t rob banks, sleep around, or shoot heroin, so we must be good little Christians. James said however, that true faith means avoiding the evil of this world and loving those around us who’re in need.
This starts to get a little uncomfortable for me. Am I caring for any of my less fortunate neighbors? The temptation is to run out and do something good to prove myself, and then go back to following my way. James however, said that the Christian life is one of believing in Jesus’ commands, and then daily taking the leap, by following him with our behavior.