Study this simple drawing for a moment. I drew it quickly this morning in response to three things that converged on me during my quiet time.
- We are talking about Differences in the sermon this weekend, so that has been on my mind all week and formed the lens for the next two things.
- I read the Narrative Lectionary text for today from Clergy Stuff. The text is Ephesians 2:4-10.
- Richard Rohr wrote about the difference between Faith and Belief this morning in his daily meditation.
The Apostle Paul said that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” The Clergy Stuff devo reflected on how Christianity has become a shame based, you-must-earn-your-worthiness system. She says,
So many of us have grown up in a shame spiral, unable to envision our worthiness. We are taught that our worthiness is directly tied to our productivity, our success, our accomplishments. We are only worthy if we’re successful, rich, thin, young. The theory falls short, though, when we fail to produce or live up to those expectations, and we begin to believe we are worthless.
But God says we are worthy just because we are. Think on that a minute. We are worthy. Not because we give everything of ourselves for another. Not because we have climbed our way up the corporate ladder. Not because we are “good.” We are worthy simply because we are.
Rohr’s meditation is built upon the fact that many translators think it would be better to talk about “faith of Christ” rather than “faith in Christ.” He reflects on how Christianity has become a system that is built upon belief (meaning intellectual agreement) in a set of doctrinal statements rather than the faith of Christ. This belief system is what gave rise to atheism in the West, because you cannot prove the existence of God through Empirical knowledge and rational thought. This type of thinking only leads to more and more division and differences.
“Faith” is not an affirmation of a creed, an intellectual acceptance of God, or believing certain doctrines to be true or orthodox (although those things might well be good). Such intellectual assent does not usually change your heart or your lifestyle….
Most people think having faith means “to believe in Jesus.” But, “to share in the faith of Jesus” is a much richer concept. It is not so much an invitation as it is a cosmic declaration about the very shape of reality. By myself, I don’t know how to have faith in God, but once we know that Jesus is the corporate stand in for everybody, we know we have already been taken on the ride through death and back to life. All we can do now is make what is objectively true fully conscious for us.
In the sermon this weekend I will try to help us find ways to navigate our differences in the church and the in the world. If we build our faith on having all our doctrines correct and finding the definitively correct answer for every question, then we will always end up in division. I don’t think that is the Good Life that Jesus brought to us. We are held by the faith of Christ and drawn into the process of listening, understanding, and living in holy tension with multiple perspectives. The only thing that binds this all together is the faith of Christ, which is the love of God.
God refuses to be known intellectually. God can only be loved and known in the act of love; God can only be experienced in communion. This is why Jesus “commands” us to move toward love and fully abide there.
May we abide in the faith of Christ today.