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James 1: 22

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.

This can be a difficult verse to teach because of the lack of good examples. The other challenge is distinguishing dead works from the work of the gospel. I think I have a good example today. To tell this story we venture back to the recent Fall Foliage bike ride in the Shenandoah Valley.

Remember my friend and neighbor Andy I told you about? Well, there was this other chap named William. William was camped on the other side of me. Frankly, he didn’t make a great first impression but later he was hanging out in front of mine and Andy’s tents. He did not hide his Christianity, but I was less than sure about the sincerity of his heart. I am usually guarded when I hear people popping off about being Christian. It is an easy thing to say, but not an easy thing to live and I find that in the Bible belt, there are a lot of what I call “cultural Christians.” You know what I mean, right? They were raised to be Christian, live in a Christian culture and proclaim their sainthood. As I told a friend, when I practiced law, I often encountered people who began a consultation with a disclosure of their sanctity. Through years of experience, I began to hear “I am a Christian” as “I’m not going to pay you.” So, pardon me if I am a bit jaded when people tell me, not about the greatness of Jesus, but about their Christianity as soon as we meet. This guy really had the smell of one of those folks, but I adopted an accepting posture.

He threw some scriptures around and Andy commented as did I. All of a sudden Andy stopped, looked at me and said, “You must be a minister.” I was quite surprised. First, he is Catholic right? And I am a woman. Second, I certainly was not dressed in any fashion that would indicate clergy. I was in shorts and a t-shirt, and no makeup. What did he hear? Clearly, he heard something that went off in him, but that is, perhaps, more a testimony about him than about me. The spirit within him registered something, responded to the Word of God coming out of me. Frankly, I was taken aback.

Time passes and it is dawn of the next day. Everyone was busy getting ready for the ride. I too was busy with my preparations, but the urge came upon me to pray. I usually do pray before my bike rides, but the nudge seemed to be to pray then rather than later. So, I sat down on my cot and prayed for all the riders, the organizers and the ride itself. I wondered, at that moment, whether other Christians were doing the same. I also thought that it was my duty, not only as a Christian but, as a minister of Christ’s gospel. Then, done praying, I exited my tent to begin loading my bike, etc. Andy was getting his stuff together too. As we greeted each other somehow a discussion regarding prayer came up. Sitting here now it seems odd that it did but there you go. I told him that I had already prayed for all of us and for our safety. He lit up responding that he had too! Right then I saw the gospel at work. Neither of us were going around doing “good works”, especially not good works to be seen by men. We had each quietly and privately been “doers of the Word.” However, there was a rejoicing together knowing that we were one with Christ and with each other that morning. There was a unity even though we prayed individually. The minister in me was joyful to see that Andy’s faith was real. Do you know, before we left that morning, Andy corralled another guy camped near us and led a joint prayer. He provided leadership that I didn’t.

You know, I may never see Andy again. Although we follow each other on Strava, we live far apart. None the less, I will always remember him. He was a living example of Christ with us, Christ in us. I love it all the more that he is Catholic because he is an iconic example that we should not judge each other based on labels. We may not believe all the same things, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I have no doubt that I could trust his faithfulness. He blessed me that morning by being a person of prayer, not because he prayed for me, but because he did the work of the gospel. He lived out his faith right there before my eyes. I was humbled and gratified.

Let us all be doers of the Word not merely deceived hearers. Let us not boast in our Christianity, but as Paul said, only in Christ and him crucified. And, let us pray! Let us put aside all of our prejudices, anger, and reasonings and just let Jesus be Lord. Let us be followers of Christ and devoted disciples of the faith.

Thank you, Andy, for being a shining example of the true love of Christ!

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