Believing Versus Following

I was just another believer. I believed all the right stuff – that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a “believer,” but I had no idea what it means to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believed, but no one had told me how Christians live.

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (p. 36)

A friend of mine asked me to read this book by Shane Claiborne. I’m only a few pages in, but it already is making me want to get out from behind my desk and do something. It’s super inspiring so far, and based upon who gave me the recommendation, I bet it will get better from here.

This brief paragraph between pages 36-37 of chapter one caught my eye because it is exactly what I have been feeling since the fall of 2018.

I love studying, digging deep, and doing research, but I think I love it almost to a fault.

What good is correct theology if it is never put into action? In fact, how can you know your beliefs are correct unless they can be applied in real time. And if it isn’t actionable, then what good is it?

Leading up to Jesus’ death, not a single believer followed Jesus. And there lies the difference.

There was a lot of talk, some strong claims, and even boasting, but all of His disciples forsook Him and fled (Matthew 26:56).

James has the best writing on the importance of a working faith in James 2. I’ve heard many believers use this passage to have debates about belief versus baptism, but such debates cheapen the force of James’ teaching. When you look at the context, James wasn’t talking to people who weren’t Christians, He was speaking to believers already! This passage isn’t about conversion. Anyway, here it is:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

James 2:14–17

His whole point isn’t that individuals must perform works to become Christians, but that believers must have a working faith or their faith is worthless. If they wished someone well who was in need of food or clothing without supplying their need, then their empty words meant nothing. Faith is the same way. Believing in Jesus and following Jesus are ultimately two different things. Though one is justified by faith apart from works, their works are when that saying is fulfilled (James 2:21-23).

We MUST put our faith into action. I understand the apostles selected individuals to care for the widows while they gave their attention to the word, but that still means that the word they were preaching could be put into practice. Christianity is not a system of beliefs but a call to action.

Are you a believer or a follower?

One Reply to “Believing Versus Following”

  1. Daniel, I appreciate your sharing yours thoughts with us, which admonition should strengthen us to become more involved with Christian love. How do we respond in our daily walk with God.

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