So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. (James 2:24)
Relate: There are certain phrases that seem to be quite common which I just really don’t like. One of them is: “That’s not who I am. You just don’t see the real me.” Did you ever hear someone use a line like that? They just did something they now feel terrible about and rather than own up to it, they instead try to explain how “out of character” what they just did is. There’s also, “That’s not what I meant to do. I know I messed it up, but I had the right intentions.” Somehow our world has this inane idea that a person’s motives are more important than their actions. When these two excuses don’t seem to work people will fall back on the old, “You just don’t understand.” This cop out will then be followed up with an explanation of their past, their emotions, their circumstances… whatever.
Everybody has an excuse to rationalize their actions. Everybody tends to minimize the things they’ve done wrong. We explain it away. We give to ourselves, and ask from others for the benefit of doubt. Our justice system calls for us to convict only when we are beyond reasonable doubt. The problem is, we often seem to presume that any small shred or tiny sliver of doubt should be considered reasonable. At least, we presume this when it is applied to ourselves. When it comes to others, we are quite often more than willing to convict.
React: There are two myths that float around the church world of a similar vein. The first is the misused, “God is more concerned with who you are than what you do.” Then there’s, “God is more concerned with my heart than my actions.” I call them myths because there is a truth to them that is seen beyond reality. The problem is, we often try to apply them at face value. This is dangerous.
These two statements are most often used as a knee jerk defense against what the user views as legalism. It is true that God’s righteousness is something that works in us from the inside out. It is true that God can declare us righteous even when we are living far from that reality. It is true that works will never equal righteousness. But it is also true that who I am is determined (or demonstrated) by what I do. It doesn’t matter so much who “the real me” is. What really matters is who that “real me” belongs to.
God looks at my heart. Nobody else does. Nobody else has x-ray vision. Nobody else can know my thoughts. Nobody else understands my motivations. The only way God’s holiness can be seen through me is by what I do. The only way His love can be made manifest is by my actions. God knows whether or not I am righteous. He knows that He has made holy. The only way anyone else (including me) can know, is by how I live my life. So what am I doing to show His righteousness? Is my faith backed up by my actions?
God, I fall so short. I know how I am supposed to live but I never even seem to come close. Help me to be righteous. Help me to be holy. It can only come through Your grace, but let it come. I can never do right on my own. Help me to show this world that I am not on my own. Let the world see You, lived through me.