As a kid, religion was boring and seemed to be about a bunch of rules to follow. If you failed to follow the rules, then you went to Confession and felt guilty and unworthy.
No wonder as soon as I could I ran away from Christianity!
Now, that’s not the message the school or Church intended, but as a kid, that’s how I received it.
I didn’t understand what being a Christian meant, what the actual ‘rules’ were or the power of God’s love.
It wasn’t until I was an adult where it all came together.
There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. God’s love is pure, true, abundant and free-giving.
God’s love for us has nothing to do with our merits.
Book of James
I’m still working on the Book of James for Lent. James’ message on faith and deeds is tough to explain.
James talks about the correlation between God and our actions. At first glance, you would think he’s saying what you do matters to God.
Well, he’s right.
Has someone ever said they loved you, but you felt they weren’t contributing to the relationship? Perhaps they were always late and never put the effort in? Have you ever said “you’re doing nothing to show you value our relationship”
Has someone ever said sorry for something they did and then kept doing the thing they were sorry for? Have you ever said “Don’t tell me you’re sorry, show me by changing your behavior”
Actions Show Love
My husband’s pet peeve is having dishes in the sink. It’s something he has always been picky about. Recognizing this importance, I make sure when he gets home, the sink is clean. Not out of obligation – I do this out of love. It’s something I know is important to him, something he likes and something I know will make him happy.
If I stop cleaning out the sink, he will not stop loving me. (He might be slightly annoyed with me – and share how he hates a dirty sink though!)
The point is, I’m showing him with actions – not because I have to, but because I want to. I love my husband, and I know this is important to him and I want him to know I love him.
This same concept can apply to Faith and God. When you fall in love with God, your reason for doing things changes.
You don’t see a set of rules that feel obligatory. You are happy to do these things and you want to make God proud. Not because you’re hoping to get into God’s “good books” but because you know it’s important to your relationship with God.
It shifts your perspective from obligatory duty to the desire to please God.
I could say I love my husband, but do nothing to contribute to the relationship. I can tell you, this would cause for a difficult and miserable marriage. The more I say I love him without following through actions, the further we’d drift apart because my words would mean nothing.
I can do the same with faith. I can say I believe in God, but do nothing to contribute to the relationship. We would begin to drift apart, and people looking in would not believe me when I say I’m a Christian. They would call me a hypocrite.
But, if I say I’m faithful to God and apply my faith every day (loving neighbors as myself) that’s true faith.
That’s what James means when he says; “you see what a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone”
Words say something, and actions prove your word. When you follow through with actions, when you do what you say, that makes you authentic and true to your faith.
That is what God wants. What do your actions say about you?
About a year ago, I was in the bookstore Chapters and noticed a beggar had positioned himself outside the doors to the store. He was in a wheelchair, wearing dirty clothes, and hadn’t showered in days.
I bought my book and was nervous about leaving because I didn’t want to interact with this stranger. While I could use the excuse I’m shy and an introvert, the reality is I was afraid to interact with this person.
What would I say if he approached me?
What would I do if he attacked me? (I’ll remind you he was in a wheelchair so I don’t know why I thought he could attack me)
As I walked closer to the doors, I noticed he had a slushy drink in his hand. I thought to myself, sure, begging for money to pay for a slushy instead of saving it to go toward getting off the street.
I had no money on me anyway so I exited the other doors to avoid engaging with him.
As I scurried to my car, I noticed a young woman approaching the beggar. She gave him some change and interacted with him. She asked how he was doing, shared a joke and made him laugh.
At this moment, two things happened:
- My heart became warm because this man in dire circumstances laughed and he was genuinely happy for the conversation
- I was ashamed I wasn’t more like that woman. I was fearful of this person just because he was a beggar and I judged him because of it.
James discusses this in the first part of Chapter 2. He speaks about treating people who are poor the same way you would treat the rich. He reminds us we should not judge, and that mercy should be ahead of judgment – always.
He reminds us of the ultimate commandment of ‘loving our neighbours as ourselves’ and if we follow this guideline, we are doing life right.
Jesus didn’t help the rich, he purposely seeks the poor, the outcasts, the shunned, the disabled, and the blind.
James reminds us to follow what Jesus did.
Avoiding the beggar was an eye-opener for me. I say I’m a Christian, but that morning I didn’t act like one. I did not follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Something to think about
Life is about learning. Furthermore, we are lucky we can learn from our past mistakes and be better.
It’s human nature to judge. Without realizing it we judge people on first glance – what they wear, how they behave, how they speak, and what they do for a living.
God is in everyone and everything.
God was in that beggar and regrettably, I ran away from God.
James’ story and my real life story are examples of the poor, however, the poor could represent anyone – anyone not like you.
Every time you judge or ‘run away’ from someone not like you, you are running away from God.
I am not perfect, but what I can say is, every day I try and treat people equally and avoid judging anyone.
Every day I work at running toward God instead of running away from God.
What direction are you running in?
I am naturally curious and like to work through problems to find a solution.
At the beginning of my faith journey, I had so many doubts and so many questions about God. Quite honestly, I didn’t know where to start.
Luckily, there were so many resources online I could access from blogs, books, tv, radio, and podcasts and so much more.
I spend a good amount of time (then and now) sifting through all these resources available and it’s a big part of my spiritual growth.
I will share resources, old and new, that have had the greatest impact on my spiritual growth.
Take advantage of my curiosity and check out the 5 resources below:
I Love the Bible…Just Not That Way by Peter Enns
Peter’s article is exactly how I feel about the Bible.
Love Everyone Always – by WillowCreek.TV
This is part of the series called “Everyone Always”. This sermon sparked something in me. It reminded me I needed to love everyone always. Even the people I didn’t get along with.
Reckless Love – by Cory Asbury
This is a #1 Song right now on Christian radio. Cory’s song describes God’s love for us – that it’s reckless and neverending.
Searching for Sunday – by Rachel Held Evans
This was one of the first books I read that made me feel I wasn’t alone in my doubts. Her book explores her journey from religious certainty to a faith which accepts doubt and questioning. She describes why she fell in love with the Sacraments of the Church.
5. Bible Verse:
I couldn’t end this post about spiritual growth without sharing one of my favourite verses. Just a reminder of how we are one with God – and we should never forget it.
Hope you appreciate these resources as much as I did!
Would love to hear what you think about these resources and how they impacted you!
It would be naïve to believe we as human beings would get along with each other in all situations. Everyone has their own personalities, and it’s inevitable that disagreements will happen. It’s how we respond that makes the difference.
I once had a misunderstanding with a co-worker. With these misunderstandings came a lack of communication which resulted in our egos getting in the way of us resolving the issue.
It was a difficult time. I didn’t know how much longer I could handle the toxic environment. It was getting to where I was feeling sick about going to work.
We spent a year and a half experiencing this negative environment. We were both angry, and both resented each other.
When you’re unhappy for 8 hours a day, it’s hard to turn your happy side on during the remaining hours of the day. The negative energy was leaking into my personal time. I felt my energy was moving over to the dark side and it was consuming me.
I spent time in introspection and realized things weren’t getting better because I hadn’t truly forgiven her. On the surface, I was acting as if things were fine, but deep down I knew they weren’t. Things were not going to improve unless I figured out how to forgive her.
It was at this point I spoke with God. I had enough and begged God to tell me what to do. I remember saying out loud: “God I will do anything to make this work, please tell me what I need to do. Give me a sign”
The very next day God gave me a sign of what I needed to do.
For Lent, I’m reading the Book of James. As I read the 2nd part of chapter 1 , it reminded me of this past event in my life.
James describes an analogy of looking in the mirror to show that the more we follow the Gospel, the more we will become true to who we are and find true happiness.
The mirror could represent two things:
- Self-examining our behaviour, as we spend time in introspection, we learn who we truly are. If we take our eyes of who we are, we are much more influential in allowing external factors affect our behaviour. We lose focus on our goals and let our emotions (anger, resentment, etc) get the better of us.
- God is in all of us and we were designed in the image of God. When we look in the mirror, we are looking at God and we have access to this divine, this goodness, patience. We just have to follow the Gospel.
James says whoever believes in the Gospel but doesn’t follow the Gospel, is someone who is forgetting their purpose and what God designed them to be.
Following the Gospel, and ‘looking in the mirror’ and examining our own behaviour will shed light on ourselves and show if we are in fact living as the person God designed us to be: humble, forgiving, patient and reflective.
The mirror is a reminder of who we are today and who we are meant to be in God.
After I begged God to show me a sign, the next day when I looked at my coworkers face, I saw something I hadn’t seen before.
I saw God.
I saw God in her and I saw that she was a human who was hurting – just like me. A part of me thought I may have had a small part to do with this hurting, and this rocked me to my core.
My intention was never to hurt anyone, it’s not who I am, and it’s not what I believe in. So, I humbled myself and shared what was on my heart. I shared what I thought I did to contribute to the toxic environment. I apologized for my behaviour and made it clear if my actions hurt her in any way, this was not my intention.
God didn’t design me to be angry and resentful. God designed me to love, respect, and be good to all people.
When you look in the mirror who do you see? Do you see God in the mirror? How is your behaviour with others? Are you living out the Gospel?
When we’re angry, we are unable to forgive and we start to form a grudge. It will start small and grow. This becomes toxic and we lose focus of what our purpose is and who God designed us to be.
James reminds us to get rid of this anger and be humble – and listen to that nudge inside you that is telling you to forgive – and only then will you find true happiness.
Since that day I humbled, our relationship is better than ever. I can’t say we won’t ever have another disagreement, but what I can promise is I will continue to look in the mirror, remembering the Gospel and being the person God designed me to be.
A person who is reflective, patient, humble and forgiving.