Sermon prep: Pondering what it means to take up your cross and follow, I stumble across this quote, which was included in a letter I sent to Sunday School teachers a few years ago:
… if faith only heals and energizes, then it is merely a crutch to use at will, not a way of life. But the Christian faith, as a prophetic religion, is either a way of life or a parody of itself. Put starkly and with echoes of the Epistle of James, an idle faith is no Christian faith at all.
Faith does its most proper work when it (1) sets us on a journey; (2) guides us along the way, and (3) gives meaning to each step we take. When we embrace faith–when God embraces us–we become new creatures constituted and called to be part of the people of God. That is the beginning of a journey: our insertion into the story of God’s engagement with humanity. As we embark upon it, faith guides us by offering itself as a way of life that indicates paths to be taken and dark alleys or dead-end streets to be avoided, and tells us what our specific tasks are in the great story of which we are apart. Finally, that story itself gives meaning to all we do, from the smallest act to the weightiest. Is what we do in concord with that story? Then it is meaningful and will remain, glistening as corrosion-resistant gold. Does it clash with the story? Then it is ultimately meaningless and will burn like straw.
~Miroslav Volf, Public faith: how followers of Christ should serve the common good
So the answer for most of us is not by great acts of heroic self-giving, but step by step, day by day. Still, that is not without risk; witness (and she did) Heather Heyer, the woman who died in the demonstrations at Charlottesville.