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Nothing without Love - John 14

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2:14-17

This week we are reading chapter 14 of the Gospel of John.  In this chapter Jesus is having a conversation with his remaining disciples after telling Judas to go and do what he is going to do (betray him to the religious leaders).  The conversation has been pretty heavy up to this point.  In the last chapter He told his disciples that one of them would betray him and that he, Jesus, was going to die.  He told them he would be leaving them and they could not come with him.  He even told Peter that he would deny him 3 times before morning.  Now, in this chapter he begins to comfort them.  He tells them that while he is leaving, he is going to prepare a place for them, and he promises to return for them.  He goes on to make 3 famous statements

1.) "I am the way, and the Truth, and the Life."

2.) "Whoever has seen me has seen God the Parent."

3.) "If you love me you will keep my commandments." 

In these three statements Jesus is claiming to be the model and method for right living that will lead to God.  He leaves no room for a faith defined by belief alone.  His commandments are a part of the package, which means that action is a part of the "Way" that Jesus taught.  What commandments is he referring to?  Well, he had just finished giving the new commandment to his disciples a few moments before this.  We see in Chapter 13 verse 34 he said "Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."  

This is one of the great tensions in our faith, because Paul taught that we are saved by faith alone (Eph 2:8-9).  This tension is an illusion that comes from thinking that faith and belief are the same thing.  One of my favorite youth group sermons demonstrates this point well.

Before the youth arrive I will set up a large punching bag hanging from a chain or rope.  I then explain and demonstrate the second law of thermodynamics.  Basically, energy is always lost, so if I pull the punching bag to its furthest point and release, it will swing out and then back, but never back to it's furthest point.  At least not without some added force of some kind.  At this point the youth will agree that they believe in this theory, so I ask for a volunteer.   I set a chair near the end of the reach of the punching bag and I ask them to sit in it.  I pull the punching back back so that it is touching their nose.  I explain the concept again and confirm that if I were to release the bag that it could not possibly come back and hit them in the face.  I ask if they believe that, and if they say yes, I release the bag.  When the bag comes swinging back it is terrifying and I have yet to see anyone not move out of the way on their first attempt.  They believed, but they didn't have faith.  

Belief and faith are not the same thing.  Faith will drive our actions in a way that belief alone will not.  So we are saved by faith alone, but any faith without action is not actually faith, but only belief.  So what do we do?  We love!  Because that is what Jesus commanded.     


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