Monthly Archives: February 2017

Professional Christianity . for All

Blind Faith (No. 8, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for February 23, 2017
Professional Christianity . for All

Adherence to standards of professional ethics and “best
practices” are important measures of effectiveness for almost any worker.
Each field of endeavor typically develops a commonly held understanding of
what constitutes a job well done. What standards of behavior are expected
from members of a profession, quality standards for the work performed, and
how practitioners can honorably represent the profession to the general
public are strong guides for the actions of competent professionals in any
field. Often extensive study, hands-on training, and lengthy apprenticeship
are required of anyone who desires full acceptance as a professional. Years
of experience making active, practical application of the core principles of
the profession are to be expected.

Then there’s what most people settle for in reference to
professions of faith in Jesus.. I wish that more of the generally held
notions of profession as a job would come with the word as we use it to
describe our experience of faith. Actions regularly do speak louder than
words. “Stating a personally held belief” certainly is one definition of the
word profession. But too much faith stalls at the point of spoken assent
that we believe. Verbal professions of faith can languish and fails to guide
our daily actions and attitudes by which we live. A profession of faith
should be a commitment to ongoing continuing education and training in God’s
ways and active application of God’s principles in everything we do.
Profession of faith is more essentially how we live than what we say we
believe.

Jesus made the point in one of his clearest parables. His
hearers affirmed that they understood what Jesus was trying to teach them.
Unfortunately, many in Jesus’ original audience were no more successful in
practicing what he taught than we are today. Jesus was addressing people he
saw and heard using all the right religious language, but who fell short
of putting the deeper principles of God’s grace into action. They recognized
themselves in Jesus’ parable:

[Jesus said,] “What do you think about this? A man with two sons told the
older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ {29} The son
answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.
{30} Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I
will.’ But he didn’t go. {31} Which of the two was obeying his father?” They
replied, “The first, of course.” Then Jesus explained his meaning.. (Matthew
21:28-31a NLT)

Earlier in his gospel Matthew recorded Jesus’ arresting
statement, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in
heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 NIV) James, the half-brother of Jesus, seems to have
had a special appreciation for an early version of Matthew’s gospel. Much of
his instruction for practical living as a follower of Jesus sounds very
reminiscent of Matthew’s record of Jesus’ ministry and teaching. I wonder if
James had both the parable about the two sons and Jesus’ statement about
people merely saying “Lord! Lord” missing out while people who practice
God’s ways enter into God’s Kingdom as he wrote some of his own most famous
words:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no
deeds? Can such faith save him? {15} Suppose a brother or sister is without
clothes and daily food. {16} If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you
well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs,
what good is it? {17} In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead. {18} But someone will say, “You have faith;
I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my
faith by what I do. (James 2:15-18 NIV)

James learned from Jesus that saying the right words is important, but
actually doing what the words are all about is much more what God desires
for us. Living as a practicing follower of Jesus involves much more than
merely professing some beliefs by a spoken declaration. We are called to
become competent, fully engaged, practicing professionals, upholding the
honor of our profession as ambassadors of Christ (see 2 Corinthians
5:19-20).

Are you a competent professional in what you do to earn a
paycheck? Think about all that is involved in maintaining your competency,
assuring the quality of your work, and presenting yourself as a
representative of your profession to the public. Do you devote similar
energy and personal commitment and resources to extending God’s grace into
the world, as your profession of faith requires? You don’t have to be on the
church’s payroll to be a truly professional Christian.

– J. Edward Culpepper
(Originally posted February 24, 2011. New Blind Faith will be posted next
week – probably based on my recent snow skiing excursion, my first without
eyesight..)

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