Making the world a better place by living the faith was the focal point of the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell’s address to members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) during its opening worship service Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Speaking during a plenary service at the Marriott Hotel East in Louisville, Ky., Campbell spoke of sharing a love for the whole world. The pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville and former president of McCormick Seminary, Campbell told PMAB board members and PMA staff that it is important to live the faith – the ways of Jesus – “in each and everything we do.”
Campbell noted that religion is designed to be a way of life, the practices of what faith is in following a particular way. She cited some beliefs of Buddhism, Judaism and Islam before focusing on Christianity.
“Christianity is about both ideas and practices,” she said. “Beliefs matter. Theology matters. Ideas matter. Saying what we believe is a traditional practice.”
She went on to explain that ideas have consequences for how people live, explaining that theologies – for better or worse – shape lives.
“What you choose to practice will have implications for the choices you make and what you decide,” Campbell said.
Campbell spoke of being doers of the Word instead of hearers only, citing James 1:22-25 as a reference point.
“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do,” the passage reads.
“James suggests a life of faith does not matter when looking at one’s own reflection … but taking action does,” Campbell said.
Doing the work we are called to do
Campbell spoke of the early church’s catechumen that focused on following Jesus by learning His story, promoting new behaviors, such as caring for the poor, widows and orphans, and renouncing the old lifestyle, that is even giving up some vocations not permitted if one was going to be a Christian.
She also shared a monastic tradition that discussed living the faith through a life of voluntary poverty, developing communities built around a rule or specific order, and engaging in Scripture study to provide preservation and hospitality.
But the Reformation promoted the importance of stressing everyday life as a means of living the faith and carrying it to others. Campbell cited the Heidelberg Catechism in making that point: “Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.”
“We are all called by God to do something good with our life, through church or community,” Campbell said, noting that “we are to use our skills and abilities to do God’s work.”
She stressed that theology of work in the following ways:
- There is goodness in every kind of work that continues the common good or welfare of society.
- There is value in work done well and done the right way.
- The goal of work is to earn money to be able to help the poor and all in need.
Using our gifts to express our faith
Campbell referred to 1 Corinthians 12:4 in pointing out that many individuals make up the Body of Christ, and those individuals provide a variety of ways to live out the faith, all directed by the Holy Spirit.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work,” the passage reads.
“We’re all called to serve in different ways. What we do every day is how we are called to live this faith we live together,” Campbell said. “The open hand is the hand of God, by which all things we have are received.”
She added four ways in particular that we can express the faith we live.
- We live the faith by how we do what we do every day, such as devotional practices of prayer, reading Scripture, worship and singing.
- We live our faith by caring for others, sharing our time and resources with people in need.
- We live the faith by advocacy and working with others for justice, freedom and peace.
- We live the faith by giving our testimony and witnessing to what God is doing in our lives, sharing the story of faith with others.
“There are ‘ways’ within the (Christian) way,” she said, observing that teaching, preaching, social networking or providing medical care all are examples of sharing faith with others. “Congregations have to find their own way to serve, to live the faith. The response of men and women is the calling of God.