Do You Live Your Faith?
CHRISTIANITY is harder to practice than to preach. It is easier to listen to than to practice. For this reason James urged the early Christians to “become doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (Jas. 1:22) Not all the first-century Christians lived their faith even after James wrote that. For example, about thirty-six years later the Revelation to John contained this urgent warning to the Christians in Sardis: “I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead. Become watchful, and strengthen the things remaining that were ready to die, for I have not found your deeds fully performed before my God.”—Rev. 3:1, 2.
As in the early church, so it is today. Christianity that is not lived is dead in one, along with the hope of such one who is a Christian in name only. True to the apostle Paul’s prediction, many are those who have a form of godly devotion now but who prove false to its power. (2 Tim. 3:1, 5) Their Christianity is talked but not lived.
“But I live my faith,” you say. If you can truthfully say that, you are doing well. One who lives his Christianity proves true to the powerful influence of God’s Word and holy spirit. His life is free of the love of money. He not only steers clear of idolatry and this world’s preoccupation with pleasures, but exercises self-control so as not to fall into the loose moral ways of the crowd. One living his Christianity keeps morally clean so as to qualify for a share in the final witness being given about God’s kingdom. In doing so the true Christian keeps free from bloodguilt. By carefully watching his conduct in these matters one has hope of entering into God’s new world of righteousness. But is this the whole picture of what it means to live your faith? No, something else has to be kept in mind: Jesus said “the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Let us see how we stand in some matters that seem less important, but which have great bearing on whether we really live our faith or not.
One of the ways to live our faith is to show love to strangers in our midst. Word of the peace, unity and Bible knowledge enjoyed by Jehovah’s people has spread around the world. Reminiscent of the queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon to see for herself, thousands of strangers are coming to the Christian congregation to make a friendly test of our love, wisdom and faith. (1 Ki. 10:1) In order to recognize and properly greet these visitors we must first know all our fellow Christians in the congregation. Do you know everyone in your congregation by name? Are you making an effort to get acquainted with the others? How can you introduce strangers to members of your congregation if you have not bothered to learn the names of your fellow worshipers? If you have forgotten a brother’s name, do not hold back from speaking. You might say: “I guess I’m not very good at remembering names, but I did want to talk with you. How are you getting along?”
When you know all your fellow Christians in the congregation you are then in position to greet visitors properly. Strangers should feel that the whole “family” of Christians of which you are a part is anxious to meet them, just as the case would be if that stranger came into your family living room. A visitor who is welcomed by only one or two in the congregation may wonder if the others care nothing about his presence. If he happens to be poorly dressed or of a different race, he may think that is the reason for the cool reception. Certainly he will know that you are not living your faith. Love warms the atmosphere at a meeting of true Christians and prevents any resemblance to the cold isolationism of people at a railroad station.
When a stranger comes into your Christian assembly, one way to greet him is: “Hello! My name is——; I don’t believe I know yours. Is this your first visit? We’re glad you came. Do you know any of our group? I’d like to introduce you to——.” That warm love in action will reveal as much as the sermon delivered from the platform. Live your faith in this manner and visitors to your congregation may feel what the queen of Sheba expressed to her host: “True has the word proved to be that I heard in my own land about your matters and about your wisdom. And I did not put faith in the words until I had come that my own eyes might see; and, look! I had not been told the half.”—1 Ki. 10:6, 7.
The need to live our faith applies to private gatherings of Christians too. On such occasions it is the host’s responsibility to see that no “holiday” is taken from the Christian course of conduct that accords with the wisdom from above and with God’s spirit. (Jas. 3:17; Gal. 5:22-25) The tone of the discussion, the use of food and drink and the type of music and dancing, if any, should reflect the Christian modesty of those present. In such matters it is well to remember Paul’s counsel: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.”—1 Cor. 10:31-33.
Are you as careful to live your faith as Paul was? If someone stumbled from the faith it would not be due to selfish negligence on Paul’s part. While God’s Word allows the Christian to enjoy meat and drink in moderation, the mature Christian knows that God does not allow him to exercise that authority if it will cause another to stumble. Paul declares: “But keep watching that this authority of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to those who are weak. But when you people thus sin against your brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, you are sinning against Christ.” “Do not, therefore, let the good you people do be spoken of with injury to you. For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit. It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.”—1 Cor. 8:9, 12; Rom. 14:16, 17, 21.
A Christian host must be cautious about serving alcoholic beverages, in order not to offend or stumble someone. Rather than offer alcoholic refreshment to one whose preferences are unknown, protect his conscience and avoid offense by asking him what he would like to quench his thirst. If he wishes wine or other beverage of this nature he can tell you. Or, you may simply serve coffee, tea or a soft drink. When a Christian indicates a desire to abstain from alcoholic beverages, respect his resolve. If your use of such refreshment would disturb him, do not exercise your authority, for his sake. This too is living your faith.
These are matters we cannot afford to overlook during the excited preparations for a wedding. The prospective bride and groom can decide whether to hold a reception or not. They should also decide whether alcoholic beverages are to be served at such wedding feast or not, taking into consideration local custom and who will attend. The Christian couple have the responsibility to see that the reception is conducted in a Christian manner, no matter who actually finances it. Not only must the serving of wine or similar beverage be strictly regulated, but the entire occasion should reflect the sincerity of their Christian profession of faith. If you have a Christian wedding, why should you have anything less than a Christian wedding feast? Your guests will judge your Christianity by the atmosphere of the reception. Be careful that you do not give them the impression that you are still a part of the world at heart.
There seems to be no justification for turning control of a Christian wedding reception or program over to a worldly “master of ceremonies” to direct the entertainment. If professional musicians are hired, it is the duty of the prospective bride and groom to specify what kind of music is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Music or dancing that is immodest or unnecessarily loud and wild certainly is no recommendation of your Christian hope and way of life.
A Christian wedding feast, like the wedding talk itself, will reflect the wholesome, godly approach that true Christians take to matrimony. Worldly receptions usually reflect the world’s irresponsible view of the marriage contract. Do not imagine that your wedding reception is not a success if it is not patterned after the world’s noisy feasts. If your marriage itself is no more successful than worldly marriages, you may be in for bitter disappointment. So remember that God’s Word says: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him . . . Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire.”—1 John 2:15-17.
Then how should you view the wedding reception, if you decide to hold one? View it as a happy opportunity to live your faith and start your marriage off in the right direction. For example, after refreshments are served, you might have proper music and dancing if you want to, but there is something more you could also arrange for the occasion. Perhaps you will want to have group singing of Christian songs to Jehovah’s praise, or a mixed chorus could entertain, with its participants singing the different parts to produce harmony. There could be instrumental entertainment, if available. A fine thing to do is to arrange for several brief expressions or experiences from mature Christians who would like to express appreciation for God’s gift of marriage and the happiness that has come to them by applying Bible principles to the marriage relationship. Christians who have raised obedient children in the faith could be called on for some words of practical advice. Pitfalls could be pointed out as well as Christian remedies for problems that face married people today.
A program of this nature is a wonderful witness to the fact that you really live your faith. Such a wedding reception would give the bride and groom a valuable start in the serious business of being a Christian man and wife. It would edify all present. Any worldly relatives or guests who attend such a feast would have no doubt that they were among true Christians. Would you want to give your guests any other impression? Then live your faith in this matter of weddings.
Closely related to weddings is the giving of gifts. In this matter Jesus told us how to live our faith: “Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. Hence when you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men.” (Matt. 6:1, 2) This does not mean that you can never identify yourself as the giver of a gift. Jesus was condemning the improper giving that is done to be seen by men. Giving that is done in a spirit of competition or that embarrasses someone is also wrong. (Gal. 5:26) When giving gifts it is possible that you may fail to live your faith.
For example, in some lands women like to hold a “shower,” at which gathering they “rain” presents upon a deserving one. The manner in which the “shower” is conducted determines whether it is acceptable for Christians or not. The way to make group presentations is to state that all the gifts are from “us,” omitting the identification of each gift with its particular donor. (Rom. 15:26) Or, if you prefer, it would be proper for one card, signed by all present, to be given with the gifts. By this Christian method of making a group presentation you will not be tempted to spend beyond your means or to err by making a “showy display” of your means of life. (1 John 2:16) If a poor widow’s gift is opened alongside your splendid present, there will be no involuntary comparison that could hurt one of the Lord’s poor ones. The poorest would have no fear of attending such a “shower.”
Take good care that your giving a gift or the reading of your signed card does not become a “trumpet” that publicly announces your generosity. Such proclamation actually would announce to Jehovah and to man that you failed to live your faith. Yet if at any time you wish to give a gift, perhaps to a member of your family or a close friend, you are free to identify yourself as the donor of a particular gift provided that you make the presentation in private.—Matt. 6:3, 4.
It is clear that living our Christian faith is a full-time job. It means more than keeping free from materialism, pleasure-madness, idolatry and immorality. It is more than zealously preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. If your faith is alive it will influence everything you do.
Remember, however, that God is not asking you if your brother lives his faith. The question is, “Do you live your faith?” Concentrate on carefully and prayerfully watching your own conduct, not your brother’s. Part of your faith is to encourage your fellow Christian along the way to life by always setting him a fine example. Let your brother see the joy and blessings that come to you because you really live your faith. Then he will want to live his. Do you see the wisdom in this? Then, as Jesus said, “if you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”—John 13:17.