Friday, January 16, 2009

Strength of Faith (1)

Christians often evaluate "strength of faith." Is my faith strong? Should it be stronger? Should that guy over there do a better job of trusting God like I do? Shouldn't I be further along in my faith-walk?

Good and faithful pastors have repeatedly tried to pound into my head that faith is passive receptivity. Faith is not so much a "thing" in and of itself, but faith is what receives Christ. What matters is not the "trustingness" but the OBJECT of faith. I have been told gazillions of times that we are speaking about faith wrongly if we cannot replace the word "faith" with "Christ" and have our sentence still be right.

Pray more, so that your faith can get stronger.
Pray more, so that Christ can get stronger.
Hmmm. Doesn't work.
Faith saves.
Christ saves.
Hmmm. Does work.

So for years I've been muddling along with the conflict between my old idea of faith and what my understanding of faith should be. And I was slowly starting to get it.

And then along come some stories from the Gospels where Jesus talks about strong faith and weak faith. (There's the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. And the centurion in Matthew 8. And the disciples in the boat in the storm in Matthew 8.) Now, hold it just a minute! If Jesus talks about strong faith and weak faith, just what does Pastor have to say about that???

He said it's not how much trustingness we have, or that we could have "more trustingness" or "less trustingness." He said that faith is strong when its object is Christ. But we sinners have false faith. We are laden with unbelief, even as Christians. When faith is fixed elsewhere, then we are "weak in faith." When the disciples were looking at the stormy waves instead of at Jesus, He said they had "no faith" or "little faith." The whole point of preaching and teaching is that the false faith be killed in us (yet again) and that we be converted (yet again) so that faith instead is firmly fixed (yet again) upon Jesus and His mercy.

So the antidote to weak faith is not "doing a better job of trusting." The solution is not to try harder to squash the unbelief. The problem is not solved by bucking up and acting in the way that I think I'd act if I were a good truster. The solution is to be absolved, to hear more of Jesus' love, to receive the Supper, to look at Him and not at my faith or its strength or weakness.

1 comment:

  1. wow!
    i "just" love how you explain theology!!
    when i'm reading the Bible verses from the Congregation at Prayer or listening to Pastor in Bible class, i know i understand it (by faith) but i can't seem to articulate what i'm understanding. then i read something you've written and it becomes like crystal