November 2 | James 2:21-26
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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.