Saturday, 28 September 2013

What is faith?

Faith is treated like a plastic word. It gets used however the speaker wants it to be used. I've heard dozens of sermons about faith and hundreds of references to it. I can't help but cringe at some of them, or feel guilty at others.

At the risk if setting up straw men, here are some notable versions of faith:
- Faith is blind belief, usually in contradiction to scientific fact (as though faith requires the individual to be ignorant or willfully stupid.) 
- Faith is believing that God will reward obedience with the trinkets of Rome (as though we only believe in order to receive). 
- Faith is waiting for God to do something extraordinary to break the hardship or monotony of our lives (as though we are incapable of changing the circumstances of our lives). 

When I read the gospels, however, I see a different kind of faith at work. This faith is the faith that believes in the Son of Man, that believes Jesus is the Christ. It's faith in the identity of Jesus, faith that Jesus is more than a rabbi or a healer or a rebel. It declares that God is wholly revealed in Jesus and that the believer follows Jesus by example and by teaching. 

The question of faith is what we answer with our belief. Jesus asked it. His followers asked it of him. "Who do you say that I am?" "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The disciples answered, "You are the Christ, the holy one of God."

Christian faith is not the belief in what Jesus can do for us, but faith in who Jesus is. When we exist inside this faith we are less concerned with what we gain from it and more concerned about how we ought to respond to Christ. We are faced with Christ and all the consequences of it. Christ has the message from God about how we should live. Christ has the message from God about how blessed the world would be if we would follow Christ's commands to love. 

If we believe with Christian faith, we believe in who Jesus is. Whatever else Jesus does for us us derived from this initial statement of faith. What we call faith is always an answer to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?"

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