Tuesday, March 07, 2006

good works

Good works are a constant theme in Scripture. They are the manifestation of faith working through love (Galatians). Without good works, faith is dead (James). Good works are what God has prepared for his people to live in (Ephesians). They're to characterize the Jesus community (Titus). In the end we'll all be judged by our works (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).

In my tradition, evangelical Protestant, good works are often given short shrift. Faith is what matters. Works follow, but are not essential. But this is a misreading of Paul. Yes, by faith apart from works we receive God's promise. But to be full participants in the promise means to walk, or live by faith. Such living involves activity and will show itself to be true faith by its good deeds. Those who professedly receive the promise by faith, yet fail to begin a walk, or life by faith, really fail to enter in to the promise, which begins in this life.

Good works often involve small things. Stopping and listening to someone. Praying a sentence prayer for another. Contributing a sack of groceries for a family, or project. Buying girl scout cookies. Serving soup in a kitchen for the homeless. Giving a glass of cold water to a sister or brother in Jesus. Speaking kindly to the one who curses us. As well as refraining from certain things: Anger at an offense. Cross words in retaliation to an insult. Participating in a conversation that is hurtful of others. As well as choosing to retaliate over an offense. Love is said to cover over a multitude of sins (Proverbs, 1 Peter).

Of course good works are to be done in love. Without such love, any work is of no value to the one who does it (1 Corintians 13). If love for God and for our neighbor is not the impulse for what we as members of the Jesus community do, then we're in danger of losing our place as a community, in Jesus' work in the world (Revelation 2:1-7).

Father, Let us be your children in doing good to all. Show us the works you have for us today in your Son. And every day. And let our lives more and more be characterized by good works. To bring you glory as your children on this earth. Amen.

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