Friday, March 27, 2020

What Faith Can Do

Yesterday, we looked at some of the (unhelpful) ways that persons of faith are trying to explain the current situation we find ourselves in. We are talking circles in our faith around the issue of the pandemic, about plagues and judgments and Sabbaths and curses and secret messages for the faithful and all sorts of stuff. We are raising more questions than we are answering, in most cases, and that's because faith has never been primarily about explaining the nature of the world. Even though that's how we most often try to use it.

This is a fine line, one that's difficult to walk. On the one hand, because we have a intelligent God who is Creator of all, we know that we can know so much about our world and the way that it works. We see His design woven into all of it, and there is a certain place for explaining Divine Intention as an indicator of God's glory. We should absolutely do this. (And in fact, this is the foundation of science itself.)

Where we get in trouble is when we try to explain every little thing in every little corner of the earth by the language of faith, as though that's what our faith is for. But it's only been in the past few hundred years, in the so-called age of Reason, that we've tried to use faith this way. Throughout the history of the church, and even of the Jewish foundations on which we stand, faith has always been about explaining our behavior. It's been about demonstrating why we act the way that we do, why we choose the way that we choose, why we believe the way that we believe.

Think about what Peter said - always be ready to give a defense for the faith. Always be ready, not to give others a lecture about the glory of God or His mighty hand or whatever else is true about Him, but to explain to them the difference that faith makes for you and how it lets you live in this world the way that you do.

So when we talk about faith right now, we ought to be talking about how faith permits us to live in these times. We ought to be talking about how it changes the way that we think about things. It shapes the way that we live because of how we understand.

In other words, faith was always meant to explain the way we live in times like these, not the way we explain these times.

It's a powerful difference.

All of a sudden, we're not creating a scenario where we're putting God on trial. We're not raising difficult questions about good and evil, about judgment and mercy, about whether God is all-powerful or all-wonderful or if He even cares at all. We're not forcing anyone to think about whether God loves some persons more than He loves others, or if we're all so sin-stained that even the saints among us can't escape His wrath. We're not raising more questions than we're answering. Instead, we're making one bold statement:

My faith can handle this.

My faith gives me a framework for holding on. It gives me a foundation for standing firm. It gives me the grace to wrestle with things and not fear losing it. My faith lets me respond in love, even amidst fear, even in the face of uncertainty. My faith tells me how to act based on what I do know, and it reminds me that things that I know about God are absolutely true even in the moments that I don't understand them or can't see them as clearly.

That means we ought to be living differently than the rest of the world right now. We ought to be radiating peace and contentment. We ought not to be wrapped up in worry and fear, though there's certainly space in our hearts for concern, for care, for compassion, for love. We should be washing our hands, but we should also be demonstrating what it means to be washed in the blood.

The question we ought to be prompting from the watching world is not, "How could your God do such a thing?" but rather, "How are you not shaken?" How are you living the way that you're living? How do you have such peace, such certainty, such comfort when the rest of the world can't seem to find it?

A pastor friend wrote yesterday that we ought not to spend so much of our time trying to defend God, even right now. "We are not His defense attorneys; we are His witnesses." And if we live as witnesses, we won't need to defend Him. For others will see how real, how loving, how life-giving He is by the way that we're living. 

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