All posts by C. Doyle Hughes

Lover of Christ, wife, and children. Pastor, Reformed, Baptist.

Living Faith, Dead Faith

“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”
James 2:26, ESV

What if someone came up to you and told you that they hadn’t eaten for days?  What would you do?  Would you help them get something to eat?  Would you say, “I hope you find something soon.  Have a good day?”  What if they came to you with their clothes all stained and ripped apart as if they had just gotten off a deserted island?  Would you try to help them out or would you say to them, “It’s going to be cold tonight; stay warm, now?”  Hopefully we would do everything we could to help feed or clothe the people who sought help from us.

Our love for Jesus come out in our love for people.  We say that we believe in Jesus, and if so, then that means we must treat people with love.  Our faith in Jesus causes us to act.    If we do not act because of what we believe, then do we really believe it?  James says that we don’t.  Belief always leads to action.

So he tells someone to prove to me that they have faith without pointing to their actions.  There is no way to do that.  Faith is like wind.  We can’t see wind.  We can only feel the wind as it moves.  When it is moving, it is acting.  We see the dust and debris, the rustling of trees, but the wind itself is never seen.  So it is with faith.  It is invisible.  The only way we know that there is faith is if the faith is in action.  If you were to step outside, and didn’t feel the wind blow on your face or through your hair, and did not see the wind blow through trees, you would say that there is no wind no matter what your friend may say.  You’d be right.  If someone says they have faith in Jesus, but they don’t live like it, you would have the same thought that you had with the wind: there is no faith.

James make it a point to say that the devils believe in God.  They claim a faith.  But do they act on that faith?  Yes, they do.  The devils believe that God is one and they shudder.  Even the devils cannot help but act on what they believe.

So our faith is at work.  It works within our works proving that it exists.  If faith has no action, its as dead a body without a spirit.

When Foresight Fails

I just read two articles back to back.  Both dealing with information not being followed up on.  The first was a case that existed a few years ago, when the first wife of Devin Patrick Kelley (the man who killed 26 people at a Texas church), reported that she had been sexually assaulted, abused, and even water-boarded by her husband.  The case was inactivated when the victim did not return a detectives phone call.  The second article was about Nikolas Cruz (the young man who is accused of killing 17 people in Parkland, FL).  The FBI received what now seems to be crystal-clear information that Cruz was ready and willing to shoot as many students as he could at his former school.  The informant, who knew Cruz well, told the FBI that he had the guns, the anger, and even a post stating he would be a professional school shooter.  Yet the FBI did not forward the information on to their Miami branch.

There is a lot of what I call “millennial outrage” these days.  That’s outrage for outrage’s sake.  Other people are outraged, so therefore I should be outraged.  It’s perpetuated especially on social media.  Some call it, “outrage porn.”  But these two articles are enough to make anyone outraged.  It would seem that if these reportings had been followed up on, investigated, or forwarded to the proper people, 43 people may still be alive, and many, many more uninjured physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Families upon families would be together, without this emptiness in their hearts and lives.

How does one handle such outrage?  How does one handle the fact that the very ones we expect (and pay with our tax dollars) to protect us and our family and friends fail to act as they ought?  Let me give a few thoughts:

  1. Seek to understand their job.  We may not be able to walk a mile in their shoes for various reasons, but we can at minimum seek to understand what it is that they do.  How many tips, how many investigations, how many hours, how many current cases, how short-staffed, etc.
  2. Ask if those involved simply made a mistake (even though that word seems so underwhelming) or if they are incompetent.  As devastating as these events are, foresight is often not enough.  Sometimes it is.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.  What do these people’s personnel records/jackets look like?  Are they consistently missing leads or ignoring cold, hard facts or information?  Is this an isolated (though major) miss?
  3. Know that these are people.  These are not machines.  Again, what seems so obvious after the fact, may in the person who had all the information, seem dubious.  Humans are human.  They don’t have algorithms like computers, and they cannot tell the future.  These are humans.  They know their mistake.  They know that their mistake led to human blood being shed.  I am sure they feel the guilt and weight of their decisions.

These shootings are tragic.  They tear at our hearts.  They cause us to get angry and look for people to blame.  That is all very natural.  People must be held accountable for their actions.  Cruz and Kelley must be held accountable.  Those who did not foresee these killings, though they had information as to the persons committing the crimes, must be held accountable.  But justice (which we all desire to see happen) cannot happen with unchecked rage.  “Anger [wrath, deep seething anger] does not produce the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20, ESV).  We must be careful that we are not as Cain, who when anger was warned that sin was crouching down waiting to devour him.  Rather than rule over his anger, he allowed his anger to rule over him.

We must be careful what we do with such anger.  It can lead us to slander (libel), hatred, distrust, and any number of other sins.  Let us pray and seek justice, but let us do so without seeking vengeance.  “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mind; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Hebrews 10:30-31, ESV).