Pastor Greg Boyd did a pulpit switch with Pastor Efrem today. He noted how we tend to have two main groups of Christians. Most get lumped as being "liberals" or "conservatives". Conservatives look down on the liberals for making faith about what you do, tending to morph into salvation by works. Liberals look down on conservatives because they make faith too individualistic and forget about the social justice issues God calls us to stand up against.
Admittedly, those are the pejorative stereotypes. But there is some truth--or at least warning. "Liberal" faith can cling too much to Micah 6:8 and turn everything into ethics, or falling into the trap of being prideful about involvement in justice issues and boasting about their works.
"Conservative" faith uses Ephesians 2:8-9 as their banner. And it's right--faith comes through grace, not by works. But the pitfall is to use salvation as a "fire insurance" and resting on the fact that we don't have to go to hell. But we forget Ephesians 2:10 which tells us that though we aren't saved by works (so that no one can boast), we are saved so that we can do the good works God created us to do.
I feel that most of the churches (mainly Evangelical Covenant) that I've been a part of find balance between liberal and conservative theology. But that doesn't mean that I haven't leaned too much in one direction or the other through my walk at times. So I need to make sure that I'm getting my life from God by abiding in Christ--not by my righteousness or my involvement in the church or my relationships with others or anything else. A good gauge is how I look at other people: do I compare them with myself, with my faith, with my good works? If I am being judgmental (which I can easily do), then I'm not abiding in Christ as I am operating out of my own faith system.
Does faith require anything of us (or do we just say a prayer and make a confession and that's all)? Are our good works flowing from our relationship with Jesus as the outpouring of His love in our lives?
If I'm loving Jesus, both social activism and personal piety will flow out of that relationship. And that's what I'm working on growing into. Day by day.