The Apostle James once wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22 KJV). James’ words are more relevant today than ever; even in the same context as was in James’ time. The quote is both an ideal and an action since it has both a spiritual and material substance. One must accept Christ’s work through one’s mental faculties; however, this expression must be worked through Christian love, which cannot happen without evangelization.
If we truly are convinced with the truth of the gospel and its power over our lives, then we should evangelize. Of course, a Christian may not totally agree to such a statement. Many Christian churches and faithful support missionaries who go overseas to preach the gospel to those who have never heard it before. Such a reality is actually a blessing from God. However, we know that we can always do more.
The gospel is a call to action; it is a call to abandon our old ways and offer our full attention to the social issues plaguing our world today. If we truly care about our souls and those of those around us, then the social gospel is not just another doctrine we can pick or choose; it simply becomes a natural extension of the gospel itself. Hence, Christ’s message must be expressed through love. As the Apostle Paul writes, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6 NRSV). Back in time, the apostolic Church understood the need to spread the Christian message not only through theological discourse of philosophical speculation but also through real and compassionate action. Any social issues which plagued the poor or needy, the apostles would certainly direct their attention towards them.
However, the apostles did not explicitly practice that attitude. The prophets, as we have previously witnessed, were similar harbingers of the gospel in action, albeit the pre-Christian gospel. Christianity is not a mold which can fit into a variety of political spectrums, philosophical systems, and other worldviews. It is not comparable to frosting on the cake of one’s life, or sprinkles on an ice cream cone. As a matter of fact, Christianity is the cake itself, and everything in our lives should revolve around our faith. That being said, the urgency of the message of the gospel and the need that it be proclaimed throughout the world are basic tenant of every Christian’s life. The same is intended by God to exist at the forefront of our mindset.
In the Old Testament, the Golden Rule was always an understood context. When Cain killed Abel, there were no Ten Commandants to discern the law of God, but God’s law is written in our hearts. Therefore, we do not have the excuse when it comes to being obedient to His commands. Thus, loving one as one would love himself was not a revolutionary ideal Christ ushered in. Additionally, the Levitical law exhorted the Hebrew people to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). But this was not the message for which Christ came to proclaim. The Golden Rule varies in every religion, so if Christ had simply been one of the many harbingers of love in the world, He would not have been very special. Instead of preaching that one should love one’s neighbor as one would love oneself, Jesus said, “I give you a new command, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” (Jn. 13:34 NRSV). Jesus’s command for us to love our neighbor is irrevocably intertwined with our faith in Him. If we are to follow Jesus, we are required to obey His every word—as simple as that.
Loving others as God Himself has expressed His love towards us is not an easy task. God is love (I Jn. 4:8). Naturally, Christ’s divine love transcends all that we are capable of offering Him in return; however, His command still stands as a transcendent goal: a perfect aim for us to pursue. Instead of pursuing happiness which entrances the world with its promises of riches and desire for luxury, Christians should forsake all worldly belongings. They must place on a pursuit of love.
Loving others and caring for the needy and the suffering are the gospel in action; it is the physical extension of a spiritual change within us. When we are being apathetic in the face of global suffering or when we shrug off evil in the world because the world is sinful and shall not be perfected until the grand eschaton, that means we are expressing apathy in the very face of the gospel’s corporeal extension. Such an action is almost similar to blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the unforgivable sin (Mk. 3:29). Therefore, we must hasten to do the work of Christ, to be His hands and feet in the world and to love those whom He came to die for. If we cannot care for our neighbor, how can we possibly expect Christ to care for us?
Therefore, the gospel should be expressed by every Christian in every place since it is the very foundation of the Christian religion and any alleviation of its message or expression spits in the very face of Christ and His work. We must obey God, lest we become like the unfaithful Israelites, who repeatedly failed to do good and fell into idolatry due to their lack of a compassionate spirit. Walter Rauschenbusch once wrote, “The Church is the social factor in salvation. It brings social forces to bear on evil. It offers Christ not only many human bodies and minds to serve as ministers of his salvation, but its own composite personality, with a collective memory stored with great hymns and Bible stories and deeds of heroism, with trained aesthetic and moral feelings, and with a collective will set on righteousness.”
The Church is God’s earthly tool. It is through the operation of the Church as both an institution and an organism—both as a corporeal entity and an ethereal people—that God draws all men to Himself. The Church possesses a great number of priests, prophets, and kings, all looking up towards the highest and holiest priest, prophet, and king, Jesus Christ, who gave us an important mission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20 NRSV).
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How is James’ book relevant to your life today?