How would you define Christian faith? Before you read further, I invite you to think over this question for a few minutes, maybe even write down your response. We in the church talk a lot about faith: it is part of the biblical witness, it is part of our tradition as people of God, and it is necessary to who we are. But I am wondering if we have a strong grasp on what faith means. As I continue to read and study the book I mentioned last week, Faith-Sharing, the authors, Fox and Morris tackle that very question in Chapter 3.
The authors say that “Christian faith is a centered, personal, relational response involving trust and obedience.” They say that Christian faith is centered. This means there is an object of our faith who is a “living God revealed Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ, Messiah, Son of the Living God.” Thus Christian faith is particular and not like general faith. Thus any who calls themselves a Christian should do so only if they have as the object of their faith the living God who is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth who is called the Christ. Unfortunately some become confused with this and make other objects the center. For example there are some who make the local church the center of their faith. There are others who make the a particular denomination the center of their faith. The result is a stunted and un-Christian faith that does not look like true Christian faith centered on the living God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth who is called Savior and Lord.
The second point the authors make is that Christian faith is personal. The authors cite two reasons: the object of our faith is a personal living being in Jesus of Nazareth, and requires a personal response from human beings. Concerning the first reason we are reminded of the Resurrection of which the authors write boldly: “Resurrection means that Jesus Christ is alive right now!” The second reason says that since Jesus Christ is living each person is required to enter into a personal relationship with the Risen Christ which no other can do for us. That is why it is so difficult within families to see children struggle with faith – each one of our children must enter into a personal relationship with Christ in order for them to come to faith. This holds true to all who yet do not have a relationship with Jesus.
The third point about Christian faith is that it is relational. It is first about entering into a right relationship with God. God offered himself, through the incarnation, through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth so that we might come to trust in him. This is grace, and undeserved gift of love. We receive this gift only through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to understand that we do not have a right relationship with God; it is the Holy Spirit that breaks through the walls we have built to separate us from our Creator God; it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to respond. It is also relational because it requires us to have a right relationship with others. The authors rightly say: “One can not be properly related to God and improperly related to the neighbor.” Read 1 John 3:14-16 for yourself. The author also says that Christian faith allows for a right relationship with the self. That is in a right relationship with God we can find peace within ourselves.
Concerning response, the authors say Christian faith requires a response by the total person. They argue that we can not respond on feelings alone. Rightly so, for feelings ebb and flow like the tides, reaching highs and lows regularly. To place your faith on feelings is like building your house on shifting sands as Jesus points out. Instead we need to place our faith on the rock of what God has done for us in the steadfast love God feels toward us.
Next week I will write about the final elements of how we define faith through trust and obedience. Until then I invite you to think about this statement by the authors on trust: “Our very existence and identity is constituted by the pattern or network of trusts that we hold.”