Let Me Show You My Faith
“Go in peace, keep warm, eat well,” (James 2:16). These words can save or condemn a person. Why? Because the speaker confesses the awareness of a need. If the words are spoken after the speaker sincerely offered or provided assistance, and the motivating factor in the assistance is obedience to God’s command to love one another, then the words are salvific. If the speaker can render aid yet utters these words with true compassion but without relieving the need, they are corroborative of condemnation.
Faith Alone, Is It a Sin?
Jesus informs us of what every Jew already believed – we are to love God with all our being, and our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Mt 22:36-40). Sin analysis therefore is quite straightforward. Sin and Love do not co-exist, because sin is the knowing and voluntary repudiation of the command to love. Saving faith is more than mere belief. As St. James declares, Satan believes in God and shudders. (Jas 2:19). Satan does not just believe, he in fact knows that God exists, and that God is love, yet freely chose to fall away. A faith that does not manifest itself in love, is not a faith guided by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul declares in his letter to the Galatians. (Gal 5: 5-6). Here, I note without surprise, that the writings of Sts. Paul and James fully agree: What good is such purported faith? “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17).
Compassion For Others Is Not Love
Consistently, saving faith is more than the feeling of compassion. Feelings and actions are two different things. Perhaps C.S. Lewis put it best in his splendid work “Mere Christianity.” A compassionate heart is gift from God – a generous disposition that motivates one to be sensitive to others.
To then, not act on that gifted good disposition, is itself the sin of indifference. Indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus teaches us. The rich man did not hate Lazarus, he was simply indifferent to Lazarus’ needs, and thus stood condemned. (cf. Lk 16: 19-31)
Love Is an Act of The Will
Every Christian I have ever met, to the extent guided by the Holy Spirit, confesses the need to love. The most ardent defender of the Lutheran heresy that we are saved by Faith Alone, simply evades the heresy by suggesting that love flows naturally from ‘true’ faith.
I would suggest that there is nothing automatic regarding love, as evidenced by anyone who has experienced conflict in family or marital life. Love is not a feeling, but an act of the will. I am called to love my wife, especially when I do not feel like it. True love is the product of choice, and choice is not an automated response. If love were a feeling, such as compassion can produce – then God could not command us to have a feeling. We cannot help what or how we feel, but we can help how we act on those feelings. Therefore, God can and does command us to act with love. Finally, St. Paul’s ministry was oriented to bring about the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5). How is that obedience of faith manifested? “Owe no one anything, except to love one another … love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13: 8,10). Christ came to fulfill the law. (Mt 5:17). We would do well, to imitate Him.