CREED AND CONDUCT
M. J. Jacob
Sunday by Sunday we affirm our faith by saying the Apostlesí Creed. Praise and worship, sermon and prayers, all give us a spiritual uplift. On Sundays we are pious Christians, but on Monday things are different. On Sundays we love the creed, and we experience special blessings. But on Monday there is no Christ-likeness in us.
Just picture a scene. Johnson is the boss in a famous company. On Sundays he attends the church with his family. He is involved in the various ministries of the church. On Mondays he is seen shouting at the employees even for slight mistakes. At times he throws files at the staff. He is very rude and irritant. Peter, an employee, whispers to his colleagues, "I am surprised. Yesterday our boss was in our church. He is an elder in our church. He even took the Bible reading yesterday. After the service he talked to me freely. Today I am shocked to observe this change in our boss."
James, a brother of Jesus, exhorts Christians in his letter to express their faith through day-to-day life. He urges us to demonstrate faith in action (Jas.2:14-16). "What good is it, my brother, if a man claims to have faith, but he has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?"
This story came from Kerala. Varghese was a well to do, well-respected Christian, an active leader in the church. He owned land and paddy fields. His storeroom was always full with rice bags. He conducted family prayers regularly. There was a poor man, Chacko, a labourer living with his family in a thatched shed next to the house of Varghese. Chacko was finding it difficult to make ends meet, and sometimes he and his family were starving. Varghese never forgot to pray for poor Chacko in his daily family prayers. "O God, you see the pitiable state of poor Chacko. Help him," he pleaded. His son, Johnikutty, a young boy, was fed up with his Dadís prayers, without love in action. One day, when the father went out, Johnikutty called poor Chacko into the house, opened the storeroom, asked Chacko to pull out a full bag of rice and told him, "This is for your family." Poor Chacko was overwhelmed with joy. Johnikutty was thrilled to see the smile on Chackoís face. That night the family members assembled for family prayer, as usual. Before Varghese began his prayer, the son said, "Appacha, God has answered your prayers. We have to thank God for His wonderful answers. I gave poor Chacko one full bag of rice from the storeroom. He and his family are very happy." At once, the praying father retorted, "My son, you have cheated me." What an awful situation! Son teaching the father, instead of the father teaching the son!
James continues, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ĎGo, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,í but does nothing about his physical needs? What good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." Many Christians are satisfied with the Sunday creed and worship. They do not want to live the life. They love the creed, but neglect the conduct. This indeed is a perilous state in Christendom today. Believers are sometimes not holy and sometimes ungodly. Dan Anderson has said, "I was a Christian for many years before I discovered that I could grow spiritually by expressing my love to others. I can manifest Godís love to other people by my willingness to be involved in their lives, in order to help them to grow. I have found I never give my time, talents, knowledge or skills without coming away to richer person than myself. Love in action is a means of maturing in the faith."
I will never forget a story John Richards (EFI) shared in a meeting at Trichy, four decades ago. A Pastor in his church was giving an extempore sermon during the morning worship service. All were attentive. Then something happened. All eyes were on a lady coming from the entrance of the church with a bed roll, a walking stick and an umbrella. She went straight to the pulpit, placed the things at the foot of the pulpit, looked straight up to the Pastor and said, "Pastor, you are a man of the pulpit. Stay in the pulpit." And she returned. All eyes were on her, as they knew it was the Pastorís wife.
This indeed is the world we are living in today. We love creed, but not conduct. What a different world it would be, if we practise what we profess. A professing Christian cannot impact the world unless he is also a practising Christian. Leaders, Pastors and preachers have to know that those who see and hear us should get convinced that Jesus lives in us. This was the case with preachers like F. B. Meyer, Charles Finney, R. A. Torrey, Sadhu Sunder Singh, Sadhu Kochukunju, Bhakt Singh, D. L Moody, Philip Brooks and scores of others. John Walker said about Bishop Philip Brooks, "Preaching is truth meditated through personality." And Philip Brooks said that there were many preachers who seemed to do nothing else, but always discussing Christianity as a problem, instead of announcing Christ as our Saviour. And he was right. And he proved the truth of his words in his own singularly fruitful ministry. Is it any wonder that the figure of the risen Christ is standing behind the figure of Philip Brooks in Boston, USA? This is as it should be, in the actual life and ministry of Christís Gospel. It is Christ who should be seen speaking and working through the ministry of the Word.
May the Lord give us a burden, not merely to be lovers of the creed, but lovers of conduct too. We will be able to touch the world by our Christ-like lives.