James 2:1-24, Mark 7:24-37
An aspiring young driven leader was sent by senior management to work alongside me for a period of time. He had many desirable abilities, including his honesty where he openly talked of his willingness to burn anyone that gets in his way to make it to the top. Amongst other things one day I was discussing the scenario of where if he had trained up a person from his team so well that upon them both applying for the same higher position, that should the person that answered to him be successful and as such become his superior, that he should not only be very happy for that person, but also content in his role of having helped form that personâ€™s leadership skills to the point that it over shadowed his own.
He did not agree with such an outcome and in all seriousness, though I meant what I said it was easy for me because I was never promotionally focussed. But what if it was something important to me? What price my integrity?
Integrity: genuineness, authenticity, reliability, honesty, honour, uprightness.
The saying is that everyone has a price and mine certainly wasnâ€™t getting promotions. But what about reputation, money, friends, family? What if the thing we hold dearest was on the line? Would we resort to returning fire with fire, payback, bringing them down publicly by tarnishing their reputation with well- placed half-truthâ€™s all the while giving ourselves the comfort that they either deserve it or that we are doing it for the right reasons.
The book of James both from last weekâ€™s readings and this weekâ€™s gives us some interesting if not challenging advice for us as Christians: Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Be doers of the word and not hearers only. Love your neighbour as yourself and show no partiality or judgement based on appearance, wealth or status-either way be it upon what may appear lowly or vice versa an attack like that of the tall poppy syndrome.
What price our integrity?
The refugee crisis unfolding in Europe. Hundreds of thousands fleeing their home countries with just the â€œshirt on their back.â€ Many once successful business people and all that once called a location home but for safety have no other choice than to flee.
From afar itâ€™s disturbing. But what price our Christian integrity should we see the nationâ€™s leaders in order to broker peace revert to a time like after world war two and re-align nations and their borders and for our part it is decided that the nation of Syria Mark II will be self-governed and located in a region encompassing the northern part of NSW and a Southern section of QLD.
What price our Christian integrity when to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. To be doers of the word and not hearers only and show no partiality or judgement based on appearance, wealth, status colour or creed when to do so will mess with something we hold very dear to us like that of Abraham who when asked to do so offered up his Son Isaac on a mountain top alter.
â€œBig ticket itemsâ€ that prey we never have to contend with because it would seem itâ€™s enough for us just trying to have two congregations of the same Christian identity not throw stones at each other never mind Christian groups that assert that they are the one and only true way to salvation and so itâ€™s no wonder that upon becoming a born again Christian shock rocker and once legendary hard living Alice Cooper wrote that â€œDrinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian thatâ€™s a tough call. Thatâ€™s rebellion.â€
So what price of our Christian integrity? I for one, after reading the Book of James know that many times mine has been far too low. So low at times that James words today in isolation are unsettling.
That if â€œYou love your neighbour as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, do not commit adultery, also said, do not murder. If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.â€
But what then of todayâ€™s Gospel where Jesus heals a man and a women simply because of their belief, their faith that He could do so.
The key is the context. The context of James whose audience is Jewish converts with works based backgrounds who ultimately are being led to ask the question of â€œThat if we are saved by both faith and works, then how many works must we do to be placed in the saved column?â€ An answer of participating in salvation through works that can never be answered never mind give any comfort.
But the answer seen in the context of Jesusâ€™ dealings with the two in the Gospel who not only were healed simply through faith, but just as important in context is that they were the dreaded and unreligious gentiles.
What our Christian integrity? Is it borne of legalism that serves not salvation but to that of removing the hope and joy of serving Him out of gratitude?
Or is it borne from when Jesus on the cross cried â€œit is finishedâ€ that we know that in faith in Him alone have our sins been forgiven.
So what price our Christian integrity? A price we could never keep, but the price paid by Jesus Christ who showered his riches upon us at the cost of His own life.
The riches and genuineness of your faith, of greater worth than gold, and to which glory and honour to Jesus Christ is revealed.
The riches of Christ showered upon us that lets us heed to His call from John 9:4 that â€œAs long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.â€
And the riches of Christ that bring understanding to His words from Galatians 6:10 and Ephesians 2:8
That â€œnot that of works should we boastâ€, but â€œto that of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world.â€
â€œFor was by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.â€
Because of the Work of Christ, saved in Christ we are and saved in Christ we shall remain, as to in Christ shall in this world we strive.