We learnt last Sunday that saving faith entails radical works. But what does it mean to have the “faith that works” of Abraham and Rahab, when we are certainly not called to sacrifice our children on the altar or welcome spies into our homes today?
When we read Hebrews 11, in which both Abraham and Rahab are listed as exemplars of faith, we see that what we are called to emulate is not their specific works, but the radical orientation of their lives. They were living for something else: Jesus and his kingdom.
This means that a faith of radical works isn’t so much about doing different things, but about doing things differently. We live for a different purpose, with different values, based on a different truth, for a different world.
Let’s use COVID-19 as a practical example of what it means to live radically.
When COVID-19 struck, everything changed. Not that we’re now doing different things – we’re still working, eating, holidaying, and worshipping, etc – but that we’re doing everything differently.
Because we believe that COVID-19 is serious and deadly, we live out every area of our lives with reference to it. It is no exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has had a radical impact on our lives, and on the entire world.
Before COVID-19, you decided where you wanted to go on holiday, restaurants decided the maximum number of guests they would allow, employers decided whether work-from-home (WFH) arrangements were feasible or not, and the Session decided how we wanted to conduct our voting at the ACM. When COVID-19 arrived on the scene of human history, COVID-19 called the shots (at least for every person and nation that took COVID-19 seriously).
COVID-19 decided whether you could even leave the country for a holiday, COVID-19 determined how many were allowed to enter a restaurant, COVID-19 demanded that WFH arrangements be instituted immediately, COVID-19 drastically modified our church’s worship service, and COVID-19 has even decided how many we could invite over for Christmas, what apps we have to download to our phones, and what we have to wear on our faces in public.
You see, when we take COVID-19 seriously, it changes everything. There is a radical change in our lives — we now do everything differently, with reference to and (dare we say it) in deference to COVID-19. What’s more, we’re largely supportive of its radical impact on our lives, because COVID-19 is a matter of life and death. COVID-19 has devastated the economy, but we go, “It’s necessary, for what good is an economy if we no longer have a society? What good is having money if we lose our lives?” COVID-19 is serious business. It’s what needs to be done.
Now, the bible reveals to us that some 2000 years ago, Jesus came down from heaven and arrived onto the scene of human history, and he is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion – far above, if we can believe it, even the might of COVID-19.
This means that for everyone who truly believes that Jesus is Lord of the universe — who believes that he has the power to destroy not just our bodies but also our souls in hell, and also to grant us eternal life through his cross — life can never be the same again.
Life with Christ as Lord and Saviour is completely different from life without him, not just in little ways, but in every way; not just for a few hours every weekend, but every minute of every day.
A radical life that reveals a saving faith is one lived with Christ at the centre of it all. Everything we do, every word we say, who we meet, where we go on holiday, what we wear in public, what we spend money on, how we use our time, etc, must all be lived with reference, and in deference, to Christ the Lord.
All this because we believe Christ is of supreme importance, that his impact is all-pervasive, and that the consequence of our response to him determines our eternal destiny. COVID-19 is a trifling thing compared to Christ. The impact of Christ on the world is far greater; in fact, he will destroy it and re-create it as a dwelling place for all who put their faith in him.
May believers live such radically different lives that this truth is made apparent to the world, for the sake of the world and the glory of God.
– Ps Luwin Wong