Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A New Thought (at Least for Me)

People who are wiser and have deeper understanding have probably articulated it before, but it never sunk in through my skull until a week ago.

On my way back from the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod Assembly (a meeting of church leaders throughout a geographical section of Texas and Louisiana), I reflected upon something I heard during one of the presentations.

"Faith isn't just believing.  Faith is action."

I think I understand this particular statement.  It's a statement born out of the understanding of cheap grace.  Cheap grace basically says, "Jesus died for me.  God forgives my sin, so I can do whatever I want to do.  I don't have to change what I do; how I act; or how I treat others."  Essentially--I believe, but I don't have to act.

Then, of course, there are those who focus on action.  Faith is action.  God demands action.  I have to do something so that my faith is apparent.  We must do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.  We must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, etc.

So, which is it?  Belief?  Action?  A combination of the two?

I've written about faith before and its relationship to doubt, and this paragraph talking about Hebrews 11:1 where the author gives the quintessential definition of faith, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.", I think, still stands:

In Hebrews 11, Christians are encouraged to live with the assurance and conviction that God exists, that Christ is risen from the dead even though they have no visible proof or evidence of such matters.  They are to live their lives following Christ with conviction and hopeful assurance that though the surrounding culture acts one particular way, they are called to a different way of life--a way of life that may face ridicule and even persecution.  This is no simple matter of opinion--it is a matter of living with the certainty of belief in Jesus Christ--a belief and faith which has consequences in life.

Perhaps stating this in much simpler terms:

Faith is not believing something in an intellectual manner.
Faith is not doing something--some sort of action.
Both of these things fall far short of the reality of faith.

Faith is, I think, a state of being.  What do I mean by that?

Faith is a state of trust in some thing or some body.  It's not an intellectual assent to something.  It's not an action of some sort.  It is a deep sense that whatever it is that I am trusting will lead me to understanding ultimate reality and ultimate truth.  It's a deep sense that whatever I am trusting will impact me to live my life in a particular fashion.  Because I trust a particular thing, it impacts how I think about the world and how I act in it.

For those of us who are Christian, faith is a deep seated trust in God.  It's more than just intellectually believing that God exists.  It's more than just believing Jesus is Lord and Savior.  It's deeper.

It's more than just what we do.  Christians certainly do not have a monopoly on doing good things.  In fact, there are more than a few organizations which do the exact same things churches do, but they do them a whole lot better.   Christians are not the only ones who feed the hungry, work for justice, seek to bring healing and so on and so forth.  Some atheists put some Christians to shame when it comes to being a moral being.  Faith is not grounded in doing.

Faith lies at the center of one's being--at the core of who a person is.  From that core comes forth belief AND action.  Belief AND action is rooted and grounded in a person's faith.  For the Christian, belief AND action is rooted in the deep faith (see trust) in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That faith--that trust--did not come to us by any action of our own.  It did not arrive because we disciplined ourselves to achieve it.  It did not arrive because we poured over Bible verses and commentaries and the latest in Christian writing.  It did not take root in our hearts because we started doing good things and helping out those in need.

It only came from one place: from the Holy Spirit.

"No one says Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit," wrote St. Paul.

"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith," wrote Martin Luther the founder of the Lutheran Church.

Faith, this deep seated trust, is a gift from God Himself.  From it flows your actions and your beliefs.  I think it is time we stop trying to talk about faith as something we believe or something we do.  I think it is time to talk about faith as something we are--those who place our trust in the God who lived and who died and who rose again and who now walks with us each and every day.

No comments: