Our Faith In Action
By Dr. Keith Wagner
When Church denominations make resolutions on the complex issues of our day they begin statements with the word, “Where as.” They then follow those statements with the word, “Therefore.” For example: The Sixteenth General Synod of The United Church of Christ declared, “Whereas scripture teaches us that human life is precious in God’s sight and teaches the importance of personal moral freedom……therefore, be it resolved that the UCC affirms the sacredness of all life, and the need to protect and defend human life in particular.”
In other words, by using the words, “Whereas and therefore,” a belief is followed with some applicable action. In this section of Hebrews we have a statement of belief that is followed by several supporting actions. The belief statement is that Jesus has died for our sins and because of sacrifice God “will remember our sins and misdeeds no more.” That is the “Whereas,” as it says in verse 11, that “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.”
Then comes the “Therefore,” beginning with verse 19. “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,” be it resolved that (1) we have a full assurance of faith, (2) that we hope without wavering and (3) that we stir up one another to love and good works.
This week churches around the world will tell their congregations about how Jesus suffered and died on our behalf and gave his life for the forgiveness of sins. This event will be proclaimed through preaching, through drama, through singing and through prayer. For some this message, or the “Whereas,” is the most passionate focus of their faith. For others it is the central point in their worship, Sunday after Sunday. Unfortunately for others, it will be skipped over, as they look to the Easter event, or the resurrection, thereby skipping the “suffering and dying” part.
I believe that each individual can decide for himself/herself how passionate they want to be about the forgiveness of sins. However, we can’t ignore the “Therefore.” Belief has no meaning apart from a change in behavior. Believing in the forgiveness of sins calls us to live our lives in a particular way. What is described for us here is of course what Paul described when he talked about “faith, hope and love.”
Some of you enjoy watching Judge Judy. What makes her interesting is the fact that once she has made a judgment about a case she follows up with specific instructions as to how a defendant should live his/her life in the future. I recall one such case about a daughter who had failed to make her car payments. Her mother was forced to make the payments or end up with bad credit. Judge Judy determined that the daughter was at fault because she did not live up to her agreement. This was the “Whereas.” She then followed with a “Therefore.” The mother and daughter were to reconcile their differences and work out a plan whereby the daughter could keep her car but the payments would made. But, also Judge Judy told them to communicate and live up to their commitments and most importantly start acting like a mother and daughter. It is the “therefore” which follows the “whereas” and results in actions that substantiate our beliefs.
Whereas Jesus has died for our sins and God remembers our sins no more, therefore, we are to live with the assurance of faith. Recently I had a minor plumbing problem. I had to connect the water lines under the sink in our cabin. I consulted a friend of mine, and he told me exactly how to do the job.
I didn’t know when I would get to the problem but I finally had a window last Saturday. I said to my wife, “I can do this.” I had both the parts I needed and the tools I needed to complete the task. All it took was a little faith in myself and the willingness to get down and dirty. To have faith means to have a “can do” attitude and the determination to try. Where as I am forgiven for my sins, therefore I live in that forgiveness by willing to get down and dirty.
Whereas Jesus has died for our sins and God remembers our sins no more, therefore, we are to have hope without wavering. Here in Ohio it seemed as though that spring would never come. I often heard people complaining about the never ending cold weather. About mid-march people began to lose faith when the temperature never reached 50 degrees. This past winter has been particularly long and harsh. But, finally we were greeted with temperatures in the 80’s. The flowers are blooming, the grass has turned green and the trees are budding.
Based on experience and the constant cycle of the seasons we know that spring will eventually come. But, we lose patience and become hopeless when the cold and dark days of winter linger on. To be people who live with the forgiveness of God in our hearts is to be people who are positive and hopeful. It is to have the confidence that we can endure whatever struggle, whatever crisis we face.
Whereas Jesus has died for our sins and God remembers our sins no more, therefore, we are to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews tells us to “meet together” and “encourage one another.” Raising teenagers is perhaps the greatest challenge in life. In working with parents of teenagers I have discovered that most of them complain about the fact that their children are always on the run. They have to be with their friends, as they say, “hang” with their friends, constantly. When I asked one parent why she thought this was so she said, “Because they are afraid they will miss something.”
I once had a parishioner, from a previous congregation, who told me that whenever she missed worship on Sunday she felt she had missed something. She missed the news from the life events of people in the parish. She missed the support of friends, the fellowship and the she missed the stories that were told in worship.
Church life has changed. We all come from different communities and neighborhoods. We are extremely mobile, using our weekends to visit, travel and recreate. Many of those whom we sit with in the pews are complete strangers as are our neighbors. We simply do not know one another.
Are we living life only with the “whereas” and not including the “therefore?” Could you honestly say that “whereas you are sitting next to a visitor today” that “therefore you have taken time to know more about them?” The therefore in this case means being intentional about knowing each other, helping one another, being affirming, and always having something “good” to say about our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Recently a woman, who was a complete stranger, came up to me and thanked me for our weekly radio broadcast. She was in the hospital and tuned into our program for the very first time. Although she goes to another church she now listens faithfully every week. Those kinds of affirmations are what keep our faith strong and active. We exist as a community who depend on one another, people who are sharing life together. We are therefore, including the “therefore” when we strive to meet together and encourage each other.
Whereas we are forgiven, therefore we live with the full assurance of faith, having hope without wavering and stirring up one another to love and good works.
Copyright 2001 Keith Wagner. Used by permission.