Words, Words, Words

It’s hard to believe that the Presidential election is over a year away, and we’ve already had three republican debates, one democratic debate, and months of 24 hour news coverage of the campaign trail. When I watch these debates, I always chuckle at the “buzzwords.” Terms like “socialism,” “economic equality,” “climate change,” “Wallstreet.” All of the candidates—on both sides of the aisle—fill their speeches with terms that connect with or rile people up, without ever giving an explanation of what those terms mean or how they will deal with them. In other words, the relevance of the word isn’t important, it’s just important to say it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how this relates to my own faith journey. There are a lot of buzzwords in the church. Faith (for one.) Grace. Joy. Peace. Life. I think sometimes we toss around these words just because…

Because they are church words
Because they are good words
Because they are in the bible

But in my own life, I’ve often been confronted by some of these words and find that I never really understood them.

For example, one of my favorite bible verses is 1 Corinthians 13:13. The verse is filled with church buzzwords, as Paul concludes the chapter of his letter with, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.

Faith. I often associate faith with belief. If I believe God is real, then clearly I have faith in God. But when I look for examples of faith in the bible, it’s a bit more extreme. I think of the story where Peter walks on water with Jesus. If faith involves getting out of my comfort zone to do new things, I’m not sure I have much faith at all.

Hope. I always thought of hope like a little kid at Christmas, anxious to find out if she got what she wanted under the tree. Hope always had an end game in my mind; there was something concrete to be hoping for. But in the Bible, hope looks more like lepers and cripples and blind men traveling to see Jesus. They don’t know what will happen, but they keep making the journey.

Love. Disney corrupted a young generation to think of love as a powerful attraction. A child simplifies love to a “at first sight glance” across the ball that draws you to another. But Jesus turns this one on its ear and says that love is giving one’s life for a friend.

And as I look at Faith, Hope, and Love, I realize that they aren’t feelings, they aren’t internal, and they don’t just happen. I can’t have faith or have hope or have love, because they aren’t objects; they are actions. The same can be said for peace, joy, mercy, etc. They are deliberate, thoughtful, verbs that involve risk and vulnerability.

The implications of this come out when James is arguing in James 2:17 that, “Faith without action is dead.” If you don’t make the effort that faith requires, spiritually, you die. The fulfillment of faith comes not from just believing in something, but from living for something. And the same can be said for hope, love, joy, peace, grace, mercy, etc. Without action, they mean nothing. But practicing them through action gives life.

In my own life, I pray that I will step out of my comfort zone, go on the long journeys, and give of myself to others. Otherwise, these words are just…words.

“And the greatest of these, is Love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:13

Zach Herzog

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