My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.
If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him,
and you say to the man in the suit, "Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!" and either ignore the street person or say, "Better sit here in the back row,"
haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.
And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind?
Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name - "Christian" - used in your baptisms?
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: "Love others as you love yourself."
But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it.
You can't pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God's law and ignoring others.
The same God who said, "Don't commit adultery," also said, "Don't murder." If you don't commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you're a murderer, period.
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free.
For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?
For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved
and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup - where does that get you?
Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them?
Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar?
Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"?
The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend."
Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?
The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape - that seamless unity of believing and doing - what counted with God?
The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)