Creedal Or Deedal Orthodoxy?
“By their fruits you shall know them.” There is hardly any passage in Scripture that demands such self-examination from the Bible-believing Christian as this passage does. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are to be known more by our deeds than by our creeds. It is relatively easy to affirm a creed. It is another thing to work it out in our daily lives. Our Christian life reaches its truest and fullest expression only as we love one another following Christ’s supreme example.
A believer who hates his brother, or looks down upon him, or is quick to criticize and condemn him, has lost all spiritual perspective and sense of direction. Disobedience to Jesus’ love command (John 13:34) reveals a lack of personal knowledge of Christ. A failure to love our brothers and sisters raises serious questions about the genuineness of our faith and the orthodoxy of our religion. Genuine orthodoxy always results in actions – not merely sentimental words or pious pronouncements. We are to love, says John, not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).
A prime example of this is sharing our material possessions with others, working with our own hands so as not to be a financial burden on others, opening our homes to friends and strangers alike, and giving sacrificially when desperate needs arise in the church. Our love for one another, expressed in tangible ways, proves the reality of the new birth and our relationship with God. It is, in fact, impossible to know God intimately without loving others. Thus, claims to know God and to believe His Word, while failing to truly love others, are false claims. The whole tenor and tone of our personal relationships must be dictated by the awareness that Jesus Christ is a gentle and caring Shepherd.
Paul once referred to Christian fellowship as “the perfect bond of love,” for only love has the adhesive power to hold the whole Body together. True orthodoxy kills self-centeredness; it puts an end to our private desires and ambitions. It makes a person less willing to argue a point of theology as long as there are lost people to be saved and spiritually sick Christians to be healed. In the light of the cross we discover that sharing the love of Jesus with others, whether in the far-distant villages of Ethiopia or in the sun-drenched farms of southern Virginia, is true wealth and satisfaction. You cannot at one and the same time believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel of self-fulfillment, marital or otherwise. There is but one possible escape from our dead orthodoxy and our smug fundamentalism, and that is for us to assess everything assiduously in the light of the love that loved us and gave itself for us.
There is, I fear, a kind of Christianity that delights in being harsh and almost brutal. Strength is present, and so is doctrinal purity, but there is no tact or compassion. No one ever lived a holier life than Jesus, yet our Great High Priest is full of sympathy, mercy, and grace. He bears with us without getting irritated or annoyed. His very patience and understanding woo us back to the right path. With Christ we are always safe.
The lesson? For me it is at least threefold. To remember that words are cheap but deeds are costly. To remember that the thousands (or perhaps millions) of words that I have uttered in speeches or published in books are useless – in fact less than useless, a positive impediment – if they are not backed up by simple deeds of courtesy. And finally, to remember that the purpose of the inspired Scripture is always a supremely practical one – that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
What greater gift can we give to any man than to show him how deedal our creedal orthodoxy is?
May 21, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.