First of all I want to state at the beginning that I am a man color who identifies as an African American (with the additional bloodlines of Cherokee and British) raised on the east coast, in a predominantly urban environment, in a nation that claims the mantel of being a “Judeo-Christian Nation”. Now you have the cultural context that I was raised in which hopefully will give you some insight into my perspective on the topic at hand.
The title is taken from the passage from the book of James 2:26. This theological argument has gone on for millennia regarding salvation by works or faith alone. I am not quite sure about the “salvation” part of the equation but I do want to look at a slightly different perspective on what work can mean. Many of us have been conditioned to think that work is something external to us. That is to say that work is something that others can perceive us doing. Acts of kindness, love, anger, violence, etc. I include in a definition of work but in addition I include the work of our inner life as well.
What about reminding ourselves each day that we are part of what many of us call “God”? The “Kingdom of Heaven” is truly within each and every one of us, the Rabbi Jesus says. Many of us in my opinion abdicate responsibility for our lives when we do not acknowledge that we are co-creators of our lives and not mere victims of a devil or enemy who is plotting against us. In other words there is no giant score board with the score “God” 3 and “The Devil” 6. Either there is an omniciant, omnipresent, omnipotent, loving intelligence in the universe or there is not. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
If you don’t pay your rent or mortgage at the end of the month and just say I am relying on God to find a way for you to come up with the resources, you may wind up extremely disappointed. One my say that God gives us life, but one can argue that what we do with that life is up to us. Jesus reminds us in John 14:12 that greater works than these (meaning his works) you shall do. This tells me that Jesus is the great example, not the great exception. We all are capable of great works as well. We have the Spirit within us. When we are constantly told that we are not worthy than that is exactly what we will believe about ourselves and we all know that people do not rise to low expectations.
Do the inner work of prayer, affirmations, meditation, and study. Do them in private when it is quite. This is the work I speak of. Then you will discover, in the words of French philosopher Albert Camus, that in the midst of winter, I have found within me, an invincible summer!
Michael Carter is an ordained Minister and is the Diversity Officer for Mission Health Systems.