Someone told me the other day that the solution to my questions about my religious beliefs was to “have faith.” I about slapped them. Were they right? yeah. Did I care? nope. At some point in life my friends, we all have to learn to throw out token phrases like: “have faith” and “God is good.” They are fillers for a much bigger conversation about whether or not God is actually good and whether or not faith can make it okay. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
Something that happens when you travel is that your perspective about what is right and good changes.Different societies perceive right from wrong differently than we westerners and sometimes…they’re actually on to something. Coming back to a culture that values ambition, wealth and success (American culture) can be really weird after living in culture that values family, stability and tradition etc. One isn’t better than the other, but boy is it strange to try and figure out what my own values are in this mess.
So far, anybody I’ve had the courage to tell about my struggle with cultural relativism always has the same answer: “Well, what does the Bible say?”
So reluctantly and with a lot of bitterness, I did my research:
What good is it brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or 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. But someone will say ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me you faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
That’s from James 2:14-18. I’m beginning to realize that when I try to transcend goodness there’s not a whole lot left. I’ve tried so hard to believe that I am more than what I do, that my goodness is not based on any set of rules or behaviors because that just doesn’t translate with my experiences. But if I am only my “essence” there’s really nothing there.
I am inherently selfish, arrogant, focused on my own agenda and freedom. Without my actions, without a standard, without DEEDS, I have no faith. I’m just a talker. That’s why I need the Bible so much. Without it, I’m floating around trying to understand why nothing is every right or wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Bible is half as simple as some people make it out to be. If God is truly God, then His word had better be relevant enough to speak to me where I’m at, and others wherever they are around the world and throughout time. That’s not simple.
But as I try to redefine my faith after spending time in another culture, after being taught that morality is rather fluid and trying to be more than what I do, the only solid truth I can find is in the Bible. I can claim to have faith, but without acting on it, without deeds, I am no more than a bunch of idealistic ideas. I know I, in myself am not good, so goodness has to come from somewhere. It’s got to be God.
It was always Him, calling me back to Himself.