Just what is the defining values of the ‘Christian’ faith? Ever ask yourself a question like that? If you had to get to the heart of your faith – what would be the paradigm or the outline? How would you relate this to others?
I think the Christian faith hinges on a phrase something like this ‘the word become flesh’. It has many aspects to consider but one aspect for me stands out – the words of God manifesting themselves (or itself) in human form. I like the idea that John is telling us something about the gospel here that is very relevant to us.
I would say what good is ‘faith without works’ (from James 2:14) – or that belief is simply defined as ‘believing something so as to the act upon it’. That definition has no holes in it. If you truly believe something you will also live by it. James’ argument here is accurate – faith with no works/action = you do not believe it; also ‘faith with works/action’ = you believe it. Jesus lays down examples of this all the time in the 4 gospels and almost every parable hinges on this idea – most poignantly the one about the fruit of the trees. What seems to be coming across in the gospels in a multitude of ways is ‘you need to become the word in the flesh also’.
Now what we have in front of us a bible, with a lot of words in it – but simply put they are just words and nothing more (framed in verses, chapters, books, and letters). Those words are lifeless things, writing on a page in verbs, nouns, adjectives, and sentences – but in and of themselves they do not contain ‘life’. What needs to happen with this literature we have in front of us – we need to read them (hear them) and make them ‘flesh, alive, real, or living’. So just how do words move from a page into our perspectives?
This is where the essence of belief comes into the frame. We choose to believe or not – and that choice is deeply embedded as a central framing for our lives – decision is something that helps to define our logic and outlook on life. Once you make a decision on the words you read you have either chosen to ‘reject’ or ‘select’ what you just read into your world-view. It is right there where the ‘seed’ is planted and the words of God may become flesh (or part of the human mind, heart, soul, and strength). Once you accept it – you began to practice it – then the idea becomes a solidified belief or value (by becoming part of the human experience). What started as a parable or a commandment – now is alive and living again.
This is my definition of the Christian faith, ‘the word becomes flesh’. So when I read ‘do unto others as I would want done unto me’ – then I have a choice to make. Same thing goes for the idea of a ‘good samaritan’, ‘mercy over judgment’, or ‘loving my neighbor’. I can let those words find a footing the human heart and mind or just forget them and keep my old values I had in their place. It is also in this essence we are ‘being born again’ – the loss of one value for another. Also we are ‘following Christ’ and ‘doing these teachings’ by placing it in a real world environment – namely the fabric of our ‘being’. The ‘word become flesh’ is speaking of Christ in John but I also see it as a good framing for our ‘good news’ – who also asks us to ‘be like Christ’.