Have you gotten your flu shot yet? If not, you’ll probably want to do so soon – being laid up with the flu isn’t something anybody puts on a bucket list. It’s interesting, isn’t it? We go to the doctor, or local pharmacy, to receive a vaccination containing a tiny bit of the real disease, a killed or weakened strain, so we won’t catch the disease itself. Just enough so we don’t get infected.
A vaccine – for maladies like the flu, shingles, measles, polio, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough and smallpox – contains dead germs that cause our bodies to produce antibodies, defenders against the live germs that cause the disease. The result is immunity against foreign invaders, antigens that can attack and afflict a healthy body. (Thus sayeth Google.)
End of science lesson. My point is, being vaccinated physically is usually a good thing. But spiritually? Not so much.
We often hear of individuals, particularly young people, turning their backs on the faith in which they were raised. They might have belonged to families that attended services every time the doors opened. Their parents might have been prominent in their spiritual community. In some instances their fathers were revered pastors. But for these offspring, teachings they heard and faith they saw demonstrated – or thought they were seeing – weren’t enough.
The question becomes, why not?
First off, faith in Jesus Christ isn’t something one inherits or passes on to the next generation. You can’t write it in your will. You can demonstrate it through your own life, and you can be remembered for it, even as part of your personal legacy, but you can’t bequeath it to anyone.
Genuine faith is both personal and individual. No one can give it to you. Unlike disease, faith can be communicated but it’s not communicable. But perhaps you can become “vaccinated” against it.
Young people are amazingly perceptive. They can spot counterfeits from miles away, especially of the “do as I say, not as I do” variety. They are justifiably suspicious of people that don’t practice what they are so fond of preaching.
And in today’s religious culture, in efforts to make the Bible and talk of God seem more “palatable,” the message has sometimes become so diluted as to become virtually meaningless – and “harmless.” Sounds a bit like a vaccine.
This might be one reason the apostle James wrote words some people through the centuries have found troubling, referring to the importance of inward faith being evidenced by outward behavior. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:17,26). Kind of like a vaccine?
He wasn’t suggesting the Bible teaches we can earn God’s acceptance or that the biblical doctrine of grace (undeserved, unmerited favor) is in any way lacking. But he was pointing out professed faith, without actions that flow from it, might be as counterfeit as a supposed apple tree that never bears fruit.
If our walk fails to align with our talk, no matter how piously and properly we speak, maybe we should check to see whether our faith is genuine – or if we’ve only been vaccinated.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.