Weekly Bible Message in a time of HIV
A message for the week starting on Sunday 5 September 2021
Lectionary Week: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Prescribed Texts: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm 125, James 2:1-17, Mark 2:24-37
A Faith That Doesn’t Get You Involved, Isn’t Faith – It Is Nothing More Than Mere Words
Focus Text: James 2:1-17
James 2:14: “My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith, if his actions do not prove it?”
The great prophets of Israel had coined this mantra: The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land. And the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how “widows, orphans, and strangers” are faring while you are alive. That phrase, “widows, orphans, and strangers”, was code for the three weakest, most vulnerable groups in society at the time. For the great prophets of Israel, ultimately, we will be judged religiously and morally on the basis of how the poorest of the poor fared while we were alive. How we, as people of faith, acted.
Who are the most vulnerable groups in our society today?
And this brings us to the Letter of James 2 vs 14: “My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it?” James challenges his listeners to act out their faith. He challenges us today to act out our faith. And to whom will our acts of faith be directed? To those who can act for themselves? No, our actions will be directed to the vulnerable groups in our society. Those people who live at the fringes and margins of society. Those voiceless, invisible people. Those people infected, affected and stigmatized by HIV. Those women and children affected by gender-based violence. Those people to whom the great prophets refer to as “widows, orphans, and strangers”. We need to get to know who the “widows, orphans, and strangers” of our time are. Many times, we live far removed from those in material poverty. Sometimes we are close to them. Often, we live detached from people in spiritual poverty. Sometimes we are close to them. Our faith needs to attract us to them, wherever they are. We need to get to know them. Do we personally interact with any poor people, whatever form that poverty may take?
Knowing God’s commandments and Church doctrine is useless if those truths are not put into practice. Christians can be this way, seeing faith as a system of ideas. Having faith isn’t having knowledge, instead, it is receiving God’s message as brought by Christ and witnessing to it. And acting on it.
Faith is an encounter with Jesus Christ, with God, and always leads to witnessing. A faith that does not open our eyes to the “widows, orphans, and strangers” of our day, a faith without works, a faith that doesn’t get us involved, isn’t faith – it is words and nothing more than words.”
To think about: Am I actively involved in the life of at least one of today’s “widows, orphans, or strangers?”
Written by: Ms. J. Turner, trained Churches, Channels of Hope (CCoH) Facilitator