The need for a genuine faith that translates into action was the theme chosen by both President Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in the nation’s capital.
The breakfast, which was held in the district’s Hilton Hotel on Feb. 2, attracted more than 3,000 guests.
“We can’t leave our values at the door,” President Obama said, highlighting the importance of having a faith that is lived out “not just with words, but with deeds.”
The president stated that the values of his Christian faith motivate the decisions he makes in office.
As a Christian, he said, his economic policies coincide with the biblical principle of “requiring much from those who have been given so much.”
He also cast his efforts to “prevent atrocities” in other countries and “take on issues like human trafficking” as being “about the biblical call to care for the least of these.”
President Obama added that his administration is “linking arms with faith-based groups,” such as Catholic Charities, to work towards “strengthening adoption” and serving those “who are struggling with poverty,” among other initiatives.
At the same time, he said, “our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.”
Absent from the president’s speech was any mention of a recent mandate issued by his administration which many religious organizations say violates their freedom of conscience.
Keynote speaker Eric Metaxas asserted that it is not enough to simply pay lip-service to Christian ideas without actually living them out.
Metaxas, the acclaimed author of two New York Times bestselling biographies, delivered a humorous speech that contrasted “phony religiosity” with “real faith in God.”
He warned of those who use impressive language and quote Scripture to justify actions that violate the teachings of Jesus, saying that this is a sign of a “dead religion.”
The claim to be Christian will “mean absolutely nothing” if it is not lived out, because real faith “must change your life and the lives of others,” he said.
True faith is not “some moral code,” but rather, it is a relationship with God that leads to action.
Metaxas recalled the heroic lives of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the subjects of his bestselling biographies.
Motivated by a true faith, they fought to defend the slaves in America and Jews in Germany, respectively, during times when they were not considered human.
“Who do we say is not fully human today?” Metaxas asked the audience, later adding that “those of us who know the unborn to be human beings are commanded by God to love those who do not yet see that.”
The real difference between true faith and dead religiosity, he said, is the ability to love one’s enemies.
Metaxas challenged his audience to allow their lives to be changed by embracing true faith and authentic prayer, which does not consist in empty words but comes “from the heart.”