Friday, November 10, 2006

Faith: What is it?

You know,

I've been thinking a great deal about faith lately. Several other people have mentioned it over the past two weeks. One friend asked, "what if I get to the end of my life and realize I am unfulfilled?" Good question. I've been struggling lately, with how to attack the issue of faith. Perhaps by instinct, I started reading Romans again. I always go back to Romans, because I never truly understand it all. I'm sure after I read it 40 times, I'll still be far away from unraveling all the mysteries.

So, our good friend Paul says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And (emphasis mine) we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." What? What does this mean?

For those of us Christians who have spent our entire lives in the Church, this is a beguiling statement. In some ways, our faith is an elemental thing. Something that we know is there but don't really understand. New Christians don't have this luxury, I think. They can clearly remember a time when they were without faith, and they second guess themselves more often. However, their faith is fiercer, stronger, even, than the faith of older Christians (such as myself). They are on the Christian Yo-Yo diet. The seasoned veterans fall into the trap of blind faith, which can quickly lead to spiritual death. Going through the motions, and not really knowing why you bother.

This brings us to a serious problem. Ex-Christians. They have lost faith. They say to themselves, "I don't really believe this anymore. Why should I continue to live as if I do?" How is it that I have not lost faith? I've been asking this question so much lately. How am I any different from so many other people who grew up in the Church and left after being disgusted with the way most Christians behave? Have I been brainwashed? Do I fear the unknown? Am I comfortable in my established routine?

I have no idea. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where faith comes in. I can't describe it. All I know is that it is there, always at the back of my mind. It's there when somehow, ends meet. It's there when I see doors open (and when I see them close). It's in my family and friends. It's there when I stand on the beach and brave an approaching squall atop a jetty. This may all sound very sentimental, but these raw, unadulterated moments of faith remind me of who I am.

Many people do not stop to think about faith moments. They don't see them for what they really are. They are shrouded, and they lose most of their surreal beauty. Lately, though, I have seen non-believers recognize God and his hand upon their lives. It is a strange, elating thing to sense the rebirth of faith. And as Paul says, there is only one thing to do in such a circumstance, "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

1 comment:

Mike Brooks said...

Forgive that I am posting to something you know as ancient history; I only knew of this blog as you recently had a link to it posted. It was good to see some of your illustrations, and the return of Ginta, but I am a sucker for conversations on the theological.

As you may know, I too grew up without having the reference of "life before faith", accepting the gift of salvation at the age of seven or so. As you infer, I too come to points of question (not necessarily unbelief) due primarily to my obervations of the actions of fellow Christians. While you may never even see this, I felt compelled to offer a few conclusions that I have come to during these more introspective times.

1. It is OK to question things. At first, I felt guilty even admitting that I was struggling with certain aspects of the Christian faith, as if doing so made me a modern-day Thomas. However, having "dealt" (to the degree possible) with these questions, I can say without reservation that anyone who claims that they have never questioned their faith, doesn't really have any. Well, maybe in the sense that veal is "muscle", but without exercises literally tearing the muscle, it can not grow stronger.

2. There is a difference between water and glass. It is not a contradiction to simulateously know that water can be pure, even if the glass must be at least somewhat unclean. With this in mind, and knowing that many do not draw the distinction when they are thirsty, I strive to be the cleanest possible glass.

3. Christianity is an umbrella, not a cookie cutter. I am comfortable having significant philosophical, political, and even theological (to a degree)differences with other Christians. We only damage the important, core message when we try to extrapolate biblical teaching to demand cultural conformity, such as "Christians don't dance, or like this or that kind of music, or vote Democrat, or question their church, or drink wine, or eat with sinners and tax collectors..." I find it quite ironic that in many cases, our religion of freedom, love, and inclusiveness has often taken a form quite similar to the religious/cultural order that Christ opposed Himself.

I have rambled enough for now. Thanks for throwing this out there.