What does it mean to be a person of faith?
We just finished a series in St. John’s about cultivating and growing good things in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and mastery. self. (These are the things Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit, or what God seeks to cultivate in our lives.)
I’m still thinking about the idea of fidelity.
Often this is defined as membership in a religious group or adherence to a particular set of religious beliefs. In some ways that’s true, but I don’t think that’s what the ancient writers had in mind.
The original idea of keeping faith (before it became a religious term) is more in line with what we now identify as loyalty. Keeping the faith is not betraying, supporting or continuing to work for someone or something.
This means that maybe everyone is a person of faith in one way or another. There is an incredible diversity of things humans believe in and work for: churches, nations, family, money, political parties, power, weapons, personal achievement, and science. So where do you place your faith? What are you willing to stick to through thick and thin? What are you willing to work and sacrifice for?
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the central theological insistence is that God is good and God’s chesed lasts forever. This statement is repeated from Exodus through the Psalms and Prophets. Again and again: God is good, and God’s chesed lasts forever. Sometimes chesed translates to kindness, sometimes to loyal love, sometimes to faithful love. Psalm 136 repeats the affirmation 26 times in a row, just in case we haven’t understood: “God’s faithful love endures forever. If you only took away one thing about God from the whole Torah (the Pentateuch), the Nevi’im (the prophets) and the Ketuvim (the writings) – it was supposed to be that God is good and that there is no end to the will of God. loyal love.
For the ancient writers of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, this idea of faithfulness was to a good God who was eternally faithful to us – to all of God’s children and to all of God’s creation. Loyalty was much more than obedience or mere adherence to a religion, nation, culture or set of beliefs.
To be a person of faith is someone who believes that a good God is working for good everywhere and with everyone. In other words, to be a person of faith means to be a person who refuses to give up the idea that good is possible.
To be a person of faith is to be a person who believes, even in the face of hardship and disappointment, that the world can still become better. To be a person of faith is to continue to love loyally and faithfully even when others act in selfish and destructive ways. Being a person of faith means working for equality and democracy, even when dictators seize power. Being a person of faith means continuing to work to care for the earth even when fires burn and sea levels rise. It means being ready to believe that positive change is possible, in ourselves, in our neighbors and even those we perceive as our enemies.
There are days when I get discouraged: when forest fires burn, when people choose to support selfish and destructive leaders, when I see more and more homeless people being pushed out of society, when I see the the rich get richer and the poor get poorer when I myself make mistakes and say or do harmful things. There are days when I would struggle to describe myself as a person of faith.
But despite all the very real tragedy, loss and suffering in the world, I know I want to at least be a person of faith. I want to be a person who stays true to the possibility that good will come out, even from a disaster. I want to be a person who continues to work for a better world for each of God’s children and all of creation, even when setbacks occur.
My prayer for myself, and for the rest of us, is that we all maintain faith in the possibility of good, remembering that the loyal love of a good God for all has no end.