I have to confess that there is much that I do not understand. Maybe it’s the wisdom of the years that causes me to be less dogmatic. This translates even into faith issues for me. It’s not that I don’t understand the content of what is often stated. It’s just that I don’t fully understand the rationale of what leads some people to do what they do in living out their faith.
James reminds us that faith that is not backed up with practical works is useless. One can blow his own trumpet as the demons do but lifestyle decisions can show a great disparity between what one professes to believe and how that is expressed through life. Yet this is where I find it difficult to understand the application of faith in one such as Abraham. James tells us that Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar. His faith was working together with his works and through his works his faith was made perfect or complete. I understand the concept. It is in the logistics that I find it hard to comprehend.
As a father I find it incomprehensible to choose to offer up one’s son on an altar of sacrifice. I am not going to imagine what was going through his mind on that day, let alone his son’s mind who trusted his father explicitly. We can speak of the symbolic foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ and the agony God the Father must have experienced which is all true. But Abraham and Isaac had to walk their faith out in this act of total surrender. We are told that he believed God and it was counted/credited to him for righteousness. For that he was called the friend of God.
The same passage speaks of Rahab the prostitute being justified by works because she received the secret messengers at Jericho and helped them to escape. Sure she lied when questioned but she wasn’t as concerned about morality as self-preservation. That I understand. She had to choose what side she was on, especially as her city was about to be attacked and destroyed. That seems to be a much easier decision than what Abraham had to walk out.
Maybe because I know how the story ends that my angst can be somewhat eased. If I could just read the last chapter on many of the situations that I encounter then it would be much easier to walk it out but then I somewhat like surety and safe bets. But life is not always lived with certainty. Even in the planning of my day and agenda there is no guarantee that it will go as I want it to go. Maybe faith then keeps that sense of adventure in life that moves us beyond wanting predictabilities in our lives and helps to define purpose for us in practical applications of how to live out our faith.
James tells us that faith without works is as dead as the body without the spirit. I am not prone to radicalism or extreme faith acts so I guess the question for me is whether the things that I do consistent with the faith that I profess. I would like to think so but if pressed as to whether I could go to the lengths that Abraham and others have gone, I would definitely need pause for reflection. But maybe that is what faith is all about. Gotta just live it out and keep listening for that ram in the thickets of my life.