In the faith tradition I grew up in, being ‘dead in our sins’ was taken very seriously.
“… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
- James (2:17)
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins"
- The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:1)
In the faith tradition I grew up in, being ‘dead in our sins’ was taken very seriously. We were often told that we were born horrible sinners and that we had nothing good in us at all - that even our best actions were riddled with sinful selfishness. This tradition took being dead in our sins very seriously.
We were DEAD bodies walking around until Jesus shone his light on us and gave us life.
Ironically, the James passage was taken much less literally. It was seldom spoken of at all, and when it was mentioned it was always with a caveat that the passage used figurative language and we didn’t actually have to produce good deeds for our faith to be real.
In a nutshell, the message was that we were literally, completely, hopelessly dead in our sins without Jesus, and that if we would accept him into our hearts he would bring us to life… even if we never ever did a good deed for the rest of our life.
This belief produced many Christians who 'purchased’ the fire insurance but were not very interested in active faith. Consequently, we were also not interested in the pain of our 'neighbor’, the needs of the poor, the health of the sick, the loneliness of the aged, the needs of the foreigner, or many other real needs that were all around us.
Ironically our "new life in Christ” created in us an action-less and heartless faith that looked nothing like the warm life and love of Jesus.
We would go to great lengths to get others to invite Jesus into their hearts, so they too could have his life, and then immediately tell them that caring for the poor and needy was really a secondary, less important issue.
In retrospect, it sounds almost like Jesus words in Matthew (23:15):
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.“
I has taken me years to begin to see differently about how God views humans. Even in our most destructive moments, he continues to value and love us. We are more to him that a dead corpse he is trying to resuscitate and my faith becomes alive when it is directly connected to real actions that express real love to real people.
“Is not this the kind of [Living Faith] I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.