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.
|An effective vaccine gives you just enough|
of the disease so you don't catch it.
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 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 us. Unlike disease, faith can be communicated, but it's not communicable. But perhaps we 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 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). Similar to 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.