"So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith (James 2:17-18 NRSV)."
In The Naked Anabaptist, Stuart Murray presents a view of Anabaptism stripped of its cultural wrappings, distilled down to a set of seven core convictions. The first core conviction is: "Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshiping him."
A major focus of this core conviction is the last sentence: "We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshiping him." While Murray's intention in presenting and discussing this conviction is to emphasize the importance of discipleship in Anabaptist tradition--that is, the importance of doing as well as believing--the conviction as stated makes it clear that Anabaptists, and hopefully Christians in general, follow and worship Jesus.
Murray quotes Hans Denck's 16th century assertion, "No one can know Christ unless he follows after him in life, and no one can follow him unless he first know him." This pithy assertion captures the idea that Christians are to live by both faith and works. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."
Note that while Paul's emphasis seems to be on salvation by faith rather than by works, he ends with the affirmation that we are saved "for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." In other words, although we are not saved by works, we are saved for works!
Likewise, James in the verses quoted above, links faith and works. "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead," James says. And, "I by my works will show you my faith." The two go hand in hand.
This truth is important for all Christians, but perhaps particularly for peacemakers since it is a real temptation, and sometimes a reality, to focus on works--works of peace and justice--while ignoring faith or, at least, relegating it to a secondary position. Peacemakers can be seen as embracing a "works righteousness" rather than a more balanced approach that integrates faith and works.
Murray addresses this tendency within the Anabaptist tradition in the final chapter of his book. "A persistent danger in the Anabaptist tradition has been for ethics to trump spirituality, so that discipleship is detached from the realm of grace."
Looking at this issue from the viewpoint of shalom supports the importance of both faith and works. Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, encompasses healthy, right relationships between people and God, themselves, each other and the creation. Faith speaks to our relationship with God; works to our relationship with others and the creation.
For there to be peace--shalom--we must have a healthy relationship with God which includes worship, praise, yieldedness, obedience, and trust. Likewise, for there to be shalom, we must have a healthy relationship with others and the creation which includes justice, forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, and grace. Peace only exists when all of our relationships are healthy. We cannot have a healthy relationship with God while taking advantage of other people or abusing the creation. Likewise, we cannot have a healthy, right relationship with others or the creation on our own terms, apart from God, since God created humans and all of creation, and as Jesus reminds us, "apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5)."
This may not be one of those topics that lends itself well to web links. Each of us needs to find ways to nurture our relationship with God through prayer, devotions, and worship. And, each of us needs to listen for God's leading through His word, the Holy Spirit, and other Christians, to discern the "good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."