Posted on: Wednesday 18 September 2019
Posted in: Anglican Faith Connections
At the beginning of the current Ashes Series, the Australian Men’s Cricket team developed various “mantras” so that they wouldn’t slip into old habits of relying on sledging rather than good cricketing skills and sportsmanship. One quote that seemed to catch the eye of the general public, or at least the mass media was this: “behaviour never lies”. It has been attributed to Winston Churchill and that was the headline that grabbed the public’s attention originally.
But there is no real evidence that Churchill ever wrote or said these words although one might think that he might be pleased to be seen as their creator. It seems so simple a truism that one can easily overlook the power of the thought that lies behind them. We might proclaim our goodness, our caring attitude or our desire to love one another but if our actions do not correspond to our words then they put the lie to them. We are indeed hypocrites and it is this charge that Jesus vehemently levelled at the sanctimonious religious leaders of his day. He said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
Notice that Jesus recognises the value of the religious exercises of his day but points out that they should not be followed in isolation or as a substitute for real faith which should always be expressed in loving actions between people. As James wrote: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
When Jesus spoke of faith, he spoke of the Kingdom of God and these were always stories of loving action. He spoke of the loving father rushing out to greet his wayward son or pleading with his elder son to celebrate his brother’s return. He described the loving actions of a Samaritan traveller, the generosity of a vineyard owner and that of a man giving a great feast. Again, and again, the parables direct us to loving action rather than just words. As Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew’s Gospel: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Fr Patrick Duckworth