Faith and Works

Many Christians believe that faith alone is enough. I would like to rephrase that and say “just enough”, as in the bare minimum. Maybe they are right, but in light of my previous entry, I think that it is only half of the story.

Jesus gave us two commandments, love God first and foremost, and love your neighbor. (see Matthew 22:36-40) Faith alone seems to deal only with the first commandment. What about the second?

As I said else where, love of neighbor depends on love of God, and as you show your love of neighbor, that in turn is a way to build your love for God. And hopefully, as you build your love for God, you build your love for neighbor. It is a two-part cycle that builds upon and into itself.

What does it mean to love your neighbor? Well, as Jesus told us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39). On the most basic level, you wish your neighbor well. You don’t want anything bad to happen to them. It also means to forgive them of any transgressions that they might have done. I could go on, but I think Paul puts it more elegantly in 1 Corinthians 13.

Now all of that looks good on paper, but how do I love my neighbor out there on the street? One way is by works, or service to others. Service to others covers a very wide spectrum or continuum of actions. (Action is the key word in that sentence.) At one end, service to others is simple things, like holding the door open, letting someone cut over in traffic, praying for someone, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, is the complete dedication of ones life to serve others. Somewhere in the middle are things like volunteer work, marriage, raising children, and so on. Anything that helps someone else.

Color Spectrum
Color Spectrum

Service to others requires some level of sacrifice. Granted, some sacrifices are not that great. Holding the door open for someone simply means that you wait another three seconds before you can enter. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the expression of love for neighbor. And as Jesus told us, the ultimate expression of love for neighbor is to give your life up for another. (John 15:12-14)

All in all, the basic idea behind service to others is to put another person head of your own needs. I am reminded of a concept called “Third in Line”—God first, others second, me third. (see Mark 9:35)

Faith alone seems to apply to Jesus’ commandment to love God. Works, or service to others, is a way to fulfill Jesus’ second commandment, love your neighbor. Service to others is a way to maximize your love. By loving others, we are really loving Him.