Greeters to all the believers!
As I was growing up, I had a rather nuanced picture of what becoming a Christian was all about. First, in my mind, came believing—in God, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. Then behaving—believing required that you had to behave in a certain way (do this but don’t do that). Lastly came belonging—faith gave you a sense of belonging to family, to a faith community, and yes, even to God himself. I understood this could possibly happen rather simultaneously, but I had this idea that individuals should make sure they believed and behaved before they should be accepted as full members of the body of Christ.
However, the last decade or so of my life, I have had to re-think this paradigm. Jesus seemed to purposefully reach out to those the ‘religious’ looked down on. For example, the woman at the well, the lepers, and the woman caught in adultery. This is in stark contrast to the idea that people have to first ‘get it right’. Jesus first let people know they belonged, regardless of their behaviour or belief. The rich young ruler of Mk 10:21 was looked on and loved, regardless of his choice. This is also true in the story of Zacchaeus and the story of the wonderful father and prodigal son.
What followed naturally from receiving the unconditional love of God is that people believed. They didn’t have to believe in Jesus before they were shown His love and compassion. Rather, they believed because of it. A natural response to having your sins forgiven—and being loved in a way that no person could ever get right—is placing your faith in Jesus and making a commitment to follow Him.
And only after the belonging and the believing comes the third step—behaving. Because I belong, it leads me to believe. Because I believe, I am going to start behaving right. The Holy Spirit convicts me to clear up my act. And this is exactly what James is on about in his short book. If you belong to the community of faith, and truly believe, your beliefs, and the Holy Spirit, will change your attitudes and behaviour.
So, for me, it is no longer believe, behave, belong, for me, but rather belong, believe, become. Isn’t it wonderful, that our walk of faith is not static!
Godspeed on your lifelong adventure with Him,