Read: James 1:22 NRSV
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
So if we recognize that the American doctrine and Christian doctrine are not interchangeable, how do we go about untangling our faith from our nationalism? We must learn to do more than hear the word, we must truly listen and then act. Apparently, this was also a problem for the early church audience of James’ letter. They probably did a great job of nodding along to the radical ideas of Jesus without any of the words penetrating their hearts, just like we nod along to sermons for 45 minutes and then go back home without anything sinking in. Our active listening helps us separate God’s will from our will, true Christianity from American Christianity, earnest faith from hypocrisy. Truly listening to the word of God will inevitably lead to action because Jesus calls for action! Hearing the word of God and leaving unchanged is an act of self-deception. We’re watching a show with the sound turned off. The characters are moving their mouths and gesturing with their hands and we are filling in the silence with our own thoughts instead of the actual dialogue. We can’t do that with scripture! Even the best-intentioned will inevitably fill the silence with their own ideas about justice. The volume needs to be turned up all the way until it demands our attention!