Thoughts and prayers…thoughts and prayers…
Everywhere and every time, all we do is offer our “thoughts and prayers.”
I guess it’s supposed to be a statement of our faith…a testimony in our belief in and dependence upon God.
I think about this as Western Christians commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. A movement sparked by Martin Luther that gave us theological motifs meant to reform the excesses of Rome.
One of those theological shifts was the doctrine of sola fide (i.e. Justification by Faith alone). To explain this requires more nuance than our anti-intellectual culture has the patience for. Yet, suffice it to say we generally confuse justification with salvation. Therefore, sola fide is generally interpreted – by “ordinary believers” – as salvation comes by faith alone, in Jesus Christ.
So long as I profess my belief in Jesus Christ, I am saved…and I am justified in my inaction.
So, all I have to offer is my thoughts and prayers. Because my faith is all that is required of me. I don’t need to act…I don’t need to be merciful…I don’t need to put my love into action. All I need to do is pour out some thoughts and prayers like a 40 for the homies that ain’t here, and I’ve done my Christian duty.
Now, I know that’s not “exactly” what Martin Luther meant when he laid out that theological construct. But he did encourage throwing out the Epistle of James – calling it an “epistle of straw” because St. James said that “faith without works is dead.”
At the foundation of the Protestant Reformation is the idea that works is not a necessary byproduct of faith. And America is by-and-large a Protestant Country. As a result, we have a culture with an affinity for offering “thoughts and prayers,” while neglecting the love that would be an answer to prayer.
The Ancients would say that we are the Body of Christ. So very real is that, that we understand that Christ has no hands, no eyes, no mouth, etc, but us who profess a personal relationship with Him. So, if we are praying for the Lord our God to act, we are praying that He would move through us. Yet, we who claim to believe are loathe to act.
And Western Theology gives us cover. We don’t have to act to be a “justified and saved” Christian. All we have to do is offer our thoughts and prayers. Since works has not part in faith and since faith alone will save us, there is no reason for us to act – no matter how much evil and carnage is unleashed around us.
How do we break this cycle?
We must accept wholeheartedly what St. James says: “Faith without works is dead.”
No – we are not save by works. Neither are we justified by our work. Yet if we love He who did good works that we too might live, then we ought do good works for others that they might live as well.
God the Word, i.e. Jesus, is justified. Certainly He did not need to be made flesh and be crucified for Him to be justified…right? Yet because of His secure status as God, He was more than willing to act – to perform works of love – that would invite us to grow in faith and find our own justification, by freeing us from bondage and oppression to both personal sin and the sinful systems of the world
Likewise, Christians who know and believe they are saved…and justified before Christ, should therefore be willing to perform works of love that would invite others to grow in faith and be freed from bondage and oppression, both personal and systemic.
We must get beyond this bad idea that “thoughts and prayers” is an appropriate Christian response.
If all Jesus offered were “thoughts and prayers,” there would have never been an Incarnation. Certainly there would have been no Crucifixion…right?
We must come down from our lofty positions as “those who are saved,” and act in loving ways that will free our people from evil and dis-ease and terror of all kinds.
Too many of us profess a faith in Christ while refusing to bear witness to the Gospel. Those of us who really believe must call upon those who pretend to pick up their crosses and follow Jesus to the Holy Mount where they too will be nailed to the Cross with Jesus.
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. They are necessary, but not enough. They are necessary as fuel to help you and I walk worthy of the Calling to which we have been called. And we have been called to walk in love as Christ has loved us and given Himself up for us, as an offering and sacrifice to God.
We must commit to a loving course of action that will remind our people of HOPE and give them a Hope that is true.
So my thought and prayer is this: May the Lord give you strength and courage to overcome the forces which are an affront to the faith and stand in the way of hope and love!