The devotional I use for my reflection time in the morning (In Touch Ministries: Daily Readings for Devoted Living) had me reading James 2:14-17.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
In his reflection on this passage, the Rev. Charles Stanley says faith should flow out of us, and if it doesn’t, “then something has gone wrong and we need to seek God’s help.”
If this passage doesn’t speak to Joel Osteen and the backlash he’s getting for not opening his megachurch to Houston residents displaced by Hurricane Harvey, I don’t know what could say it better.
I knew Osteen’s Lakewood Church was big, but how big didn’t register until I saw a photo on Twitter of the filled sanctuary. It’s an arena, for God’s sake!
Of course opening the doors would be a huge administrative challenge — the need for supplies, a volunteer force, the logistics of hundreds of people moving through your beautiful facility. But what could be worse than failing to care for others in need?
I felt saddened for Jesus’ Church, puzzled as to why the pastor didn’t prove himself a better example to his congregation and embarrassed by Osteen’s blatant lack of obedience to the truth in James’ words.
Then the Holy Spirit turned the spotlight on me.
Looking in the mirror
Funny how that happens when you’re deflecting responsibility onto others for truth revealed to you!
I thought of how often I’ve talked up a storm about a social issue, an idea to create something good or useful, or even an action I felt God might be leading me to do, and then left it at that.
I didn’t act on my words, didn’t open the doors of my heart to exercise some faith to follow God’s lead. Instead, I quietly built a dam to head off the flood of inspired passion and to calm the rising fear that gets in the way of divine opportunities.
How many times?
I think of the idea I had to call a group of Christian brothers and sisters together to pray for healing for our friend, Steve, when he was battling cancer, and later for my husband, Paul, when it was clear his cancer was getting the best of him. I wrote about it in my journal and envisioned how the meeting might go. I even had the hint of faith that it was God’s idea given to me and that, if acted upon, it would result in a healing miracle.
Obviously, I didn’t act on my faith because they’re both dead.
Stanley says, “… when the faith-building process results in action — no matter how simple — then we truly begin to see the power of the Lord displayed.”
Instead of the possibility of seeing God’s power to heal or to experience his presence in the midst of loved ones gathered together in prayer, I regret not stepping out in faith on Steve and Paul’s behalf. I don’t blame myself for their deaths, I just wonder what might have been.
Sad, very sad. And humbling to think of now as I want to point the finger at Joel Osteen for what looks like his egregious sin.
Too much water under the bridge?
While writing this, I overheard a TV news report in which Osteen said Lakewood Church is helping evacuees with baby food and formula and other shelter supplies and is prepared to shelter people.
“Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter,” he tweeted Tuesday.
Good for Osteen; good for the people of Houston.
What is regrettable, though, is the stain left on the larger Christian church from what appeared to be Lakewood’s unwillingness to let its prosperity brand of faith flow sooner rather than later and the loss of potential to see the power of Love unleashed.
What stories could have been told? What good may have come from Lakewood reaching out to stem the tide of loss and sorrow among the people of Houston before being shamed into action?
And how might the Christian church have benefited from seeing the light of Christ shining out through good deeds done willingly for the glorify of God in heaven? (Matthew 5:16)
Lord, something is wrong with our faith, and we need your help to act on the measure of it you have given to us. Forgive us, change us. Heal your people. For your Name’s sake, Amen.