15 Jesus sat down to eat at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples. Indeed, many of them had become his followers. 16 When some of the legal experts from among the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?”
17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17, CEB
Faith is full of paradoxes. We often don’t want to be told what to believe, but we also tend to talk about faith as if it’s a synonym of “belief”. You’re a Christian if 1. You believe God exists 2. You believe the Bible is true 3. You believe Jesus is God’s son 4. You believe in the Trinity. The list goes on. Rarely in these lists do we see: 5. You perform acts of mercy 6. Willingness to eat with outcasts 7. Uphold the dignity and respect of those around us.
Now, we talk about these things at NSC all the time, but we’re also always in danger of slipping back into thinking that belief alone is what marks us as belonging to God. When we look comprehensively both at Jesus’ life and the rest of the teachings of the New Testament (and the Old, for that matter) we see that isn’t the case. Being saved by “faith alone” does not mean “belief alone”, it means faith plus a willingness to live in accordance with that faith.
As difficult as it can be to believe in God, it’s much easier to believe in God than it is to live faithfully. At least, it is for me. So it seems we should devote as much time and energy to one as the other. If the name of God is mercy, as the Pope suggests, it should probably be our name as a community as well.