For more help use this Bible Study method
Faith as Friendship
by Dan Kidd
You’d think after centuries of articulating, evaluating and reforming, memorizing, preaching, teaching, reciting, and singing the essential claims and confessions of Christianity, anyone who knows anything at all about Christians would at least be able to accurately describe what we believe are the consequences of our faith. But honestly, I get the sense (with evidence) that far too often two persistent, untrue ideas dominate what people think Christians believe:
1. “Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.”
Odds are there is someone you know who believes that this is what Christians believe. There is something intuitive about the idea. We like the idea that good behavior ought to be rewarded and bad behavior ought to be punished; and thus, good people—that is, people who tip the cosmic scale rightwards—ought to ultimately be rewarded for their goodness. Conversely, the bad ones—those who act more evil than righteous—deserve punishment. After all, where would we be if we went about rewarding people for doing evil things and punishing them for good things?
Or, on the other side of the coin,
2. “The only thing that really matters is that we believe that Christ died for our sins.”
This is the radical alternative, wherein an intellectual agreement that Christ took care of the afterlife problem of sinfulness is understood to mean that Christians are free to live without concern for how they behave. We’re unlikely to hear many say it out loud just that way. Instead, it often shows up in hyper-focusing on thinking or knowing about God and humanity precisely. To the outside world, this means that Christians are people who think certain things that has no influence on how they act. Or worse, Christians believe certain things that excuse bad behavior.
Neither of these are right, and James wants to clear things up.
Faith is not simply a matter of thinking or knowing the truth about Jesus. Nor is faith behaving righteously so that we deserve our reward. Then what is faith? It is a gracious gift from God—a fruit of the Spirit. Faith, also translated as faithfulness, has to do with allegiance. Notice that Abraham’s righteousness has to do with him being a friend of God. His friendship with the Lord was both the reason and consequence of his faithfulness. To be sure, it is because of Jesus that our enmity towards God became friendship. But what friendship exists without mutual friendliness?
We have been saved into the love of God because he first loved us. Because we now love God, we participate in our love by living as he intends and we love, care for, and feed one another.
Centering Prayer: Today we will use one short phrase to help us focus our time with God. This phrase is meant to be something like a base on the field. Take a moment to find quiet and calm. Take one deep breath in and out. Then, you will say a phrase in two parts: as you breathe in, say the first half of the phrase. As you breathe out, say the second part of the phrase. Sit quietly in the presence of the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts. If you find your mind wandering away, repeat the prayer (breathing in and out again). Spend several minutes praying and sitting, praying and sitting. Feel free to use a phrase of your own, or, you can pray, “Because you loved me, I will love.”