Bam! The thunderous sound came from outside the local Wendy’s where I worked at the sandwich station. Everyone ran out to investigate, only to discover a gruesome scene. A motorcycle crashed into the back of a flatbed truck as it turned onto the street. The rider met an unfortunate end because he decided to have a little fun by performing a wheelie down the street. He crashed into the trailer, bending the motorcycle 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 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. Our salvation is by grace through faith, but it is just a rotting corpse with no signs of life if there are no actions to give evidence.
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 like the husk of that 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? Many claim to be faithful but live in mediocrity. Sin takes a foothold, and when that life moment occurs, the response does not resemble the character of Christ.
Dan Kimball, a pastor from Santa Cruz, conducted a study about how people outside of the church viewed 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? The one thing that compelled those outside the church was seeing the life of Jesus within the church. Without the life of Jesus evident, they see a discarded empty husk. In Christ, we have a vibrant life! May our actions testify to what Jesus has done in us. We have the gift of a new life. Let’s live it.