Friday, May 4, 2018

What Faith Feels Like

As the Christian faith wrestles with a post-Christian world and a widespread illiteracy about who Jesus even is, it depends upon the witnesses of Judeo-Christian history and the early church. And this witness serves an even greater purpose for the Gospel today, as it stands in tension with another widespread characteristic of a post-Christian (and specifically, post-modern) world:

It makes faith more than a feeling.

You may have noticed that we're living in a time unlike any other in which all things are based upon nothing more than how someone "feels" about them. We have even changed our language to accommodate this new "truth." How often do you hear someone say something like, "That feels like it is probably a good idea" or "I feel like people today have more opinions than they used to"? Neither of these is something anyone could actually "feel." They would have to either "think" or "believe" it, but we're living in a world that values neither thinking nor believing and so places its entire emphasis on feeling, even on feeling those things that are not conducive to really being felt. 

So when a Christian today says something like, "Jesus is the narrow road" or "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life," the world either gets offended that we didn't add an "I feel" statement on the front of that...or they mentally add it on for us, making Jesus nothing more than a preference or another subjective idea that we have. 

Now, here's where the Christian faith does something entirely unexpected. The Christian faith is based on love, which most of us would say is a feeling. And most of us would say that the more we become convinced of the Christian faith, the more we are drawn into this love and the more this love is drawn into us, which ought to make the Christian faith progressively more of a feeling over time. Which means that if someone who has been a Christian for a long time tries to tell you about his or her faith, you ought to expect to hear a passionate, emotional, feeling-based plea about why Jesus is, you know, super-cool. 

But in the Christian faith, exactly the opposite is true. In the Christian faith, love becomes less of a feeling over time and more of a truth. It becomes less emotional and more rational, particularly the more irrational it becomes. It is the younger Christians in the faith who utilize the most passionate, emotional, feeling-based pleas because they are the ones who are in that honeymoon, head-over-heels, warm fuzzies kind of love that marks the beginning of any relationship. The longer someone has become a Christian, the more that emotional love has settled into an intimate wonder, a tender knowing, a real and vital truth

Which means that exactly contrary to what the world believes, someone who tries to convince you of the truth of Christianity is not unexamined in their belief; they are most deeply examined in it and have found it, through love, to be true. 

Regardless of how we might "feel" about it. 

The world no longer knows what to do with this. Our world doesn't know how to handle something that can't be reduced to an "I feel" statement. They don't know what to do when we refuse to say, "I feel" but instead declare "He is." So they tell us that clearly, we just feel it, even though we didn't say it in so many words. They tell us it's only our opinion, only our experience. They tell us that's nice for us, but it doesn't really work for them, that the laws of their universe are somehow so different that what we are so ready to claim as truth cannot possibly also be true for them. And they pat us on the back and tell us that's nice and then shove us along so that we can't bother them any more with it. 

And then, sometime later - maybe hours, maybe days, maybe weeks, maybe years - some of them come back to us. They circle back and ask us what it was that makes what we "feel" so much more vibrant, so much more fulfilling, so much more wonderful than the formless and void that has filled them with emptiness for far too long. They circle back and ask us how they can feel like we feel. What, they ask, does faith even feel like?

It feels like truth. 

Which is why mere feeling will never come close to capturing real faith. 

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