Sunday, March 7, 2010

On Faith

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. - Romans 3:22

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

As a Christian, I hear the word "faith" tossed around quite a lot. People are always talking about their faith, often in reference to their relationship with/belief in God. Faith is elevated as one of the highest ideals for Christians; it makes Paul's top three in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Christians are often described as "people of faith"; faith has virtually become a pseudonym for religion. Faith has meanings outside of religion, as well; people might have faith in a friend; in a favorite sports team; in a loved one. Is it possible that by using the word so much, we've diluted its meaning?

Today, I think that secular uses of 'faith' are too often closer to the mark. It's often used to refer to simply believing in the existence of the Christian God; I'm more guilty of this than anyone. I used to think I had an unshakable, amazing faith simply because I couldn't escape the reality of the existence of God. So why was I so ineffectual as a follower of God?

Because faith is more than simply saying yes to a list of facts, or believing something to be true. One way seculars get faith right is that in the definition I gave above, the faith is directed towards a person (or entity), not just towards a fact. True faith is not just in the existence of God, but in the person of God. (See the first verse at the top of the post)

The other way I see Christians getting faith wrong is in its power. As the second verse says, faith is equivalent to sureness and certainty. It's being absolutely convinced of the reality of the object of faith. This is why Christian faith necessarily goes beyond where mere facts and logic can take us, and why skeptics call it crazy--in a world where what we can know is ultimately limited by our own perception (maybe it was all a dream!) and 99.999% is about as close as we can get to sure of anything, God calls for us to believe in Him, 100%. If you were as sure about who God is as you were about who you are, what would it look like? I can barely imagine. Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed we can literally order mountains around, so our faith must be pretty tiny indeed.

I'm not saying any of this to make anyone feel bad; again, I'm more guilty than anyone of having an insufficient faith. This has been on my heart for a while now, and hopefully someone else can benefit from a clearer picture of faith. I'll close with a paraphrased Treichlerism that well illustrates faith:
A man (Charles Blondin, for the curious) set up a tightrope over Niagara Falls and proceeded to do amazing, gravity-defying stunts high above the water. He returned to the shore amid thundering applause and asked, "Who here believes I could carry a man across the falls in a wheelbarrow?"
"Yes!" the crowds responded.
"Get in," he said.

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