Christianity is often described as (or accused of) a religion of beliefs. The litmus test of your commitment to your faith is based on adherence to a creed. The creed might vary in wording, but they generally include Jesus being God’s literal son, Mary his Virgin mother, the Christ’s death and bodily resurrection. I’d like to make an case for Christianity as a religion of action.
Dr. Elnes included a flow chart clarifying Paul’s logic in his written sermon on our text for the week (Romans 1:21-32). The key box in the chart contains the words “gave them over” (repeated four times through the argument). When Gentiles didn’t honor and give thanks to God, God “gave them over” to their senseless and foolish minds. This set off a chain reaction through lusts, degraded bodies and passions, into debased minds, ending with doing evil or what isn’t right. At every turning point when the Gentiles chose wrongly, God “gave them over” to the consequences of their choices.
The spiral into doing evil seems inevitable, but we have free will. When we choose a path we also choose the consequences of that path. If we choose badly, we largely end up with unpleasant consequences, and then find ourselves in the position of asking God to help us out of the mess we’ve made.
But the opposite is also true. If we choose rightly, God will “give us over” to the consequences of that choice. An attitude of arrogance and entitlement results in being given over to false pride and self-importance, but in an attitude of humility we are “given over” to the joy of living in right relationship with others as part of a community.
This “giving over” has little to do with creed-based faith and everything to do with moment-to-moment actions. Behaving in a certain way might be based on a belief in a loving creator God, but only if we act on that belief will God “give us over” to the consequences of the actions. Faith alone isn’t enough to start that virtuous circle. Only action kicks it off. Only action keeps us spiraling ever closer to God.