A friend of mine recently posted this meme:
Admittedly there is residual animosity between some people of faith and those aren’t of faith, whether it be for ethnic, sociopolitical, or other reasons. Sometimes this animosity drives the jabs and pot shots at the other side, and the injuring party often doesn’t care whether the jab is fair or accurate.
That aside, this meme made me wonder whether there were actually people, whether of faith or not, who actually believe that faith is about relying on a magical Santa Claus in the sky to give us things, fix things, or otherwise configure our world to our personal liking. I doubt it, but feel like there are plenty of misconceptions about faith, so I want to address the question of what the Christian faith is.
By way of disclaimer, I’m addressing the Christian faith because I am Christian. I am sure the other faiths (e.g., Islam, Judaism, etc.) might have similar responses, but I’m not in a position to speak for them.
The Christian faith is a love story. Period. Everything we consider, every question we ask, every problem we address must be placed within the context of this love story. It’s the story of a supreme being we call God who is purely love and finds that he needs/wants a way to more fully express this love. So he creates the most unfathomable context. He creates love children, if you will — the human race. These creatures will spurn His love and rebel against him. They will curse him, spit in his face, and hate him. He will send His own son to try to win them back, and their hatred will drive them to kill the son of God. Now in the face of the most unworthy and unlovable creatures anyone can imagine, God will say to them “I love you still.” Not only love them enough to forgive them, but love them enough to make them part of His family — call them the “children of God.”
There is nothing to be said about the Christian faith or done as an act of Christian faith that can be understood apart from how it fits into that context. The entire Christian “mission” is about bringing the love of God to bear in a broken world so dominated by hate and evil. When one becomes a Christian he/she becomes committed to becoming a channel for this indescribable love of God — because God loved me, I’m going to share that love with others in the same way. I’m going to be a channel, a conduit for the love of God. Our mission is to see our entire world dominated and controlled by love. It’s the only weapon we have against the evil and hate in this world.
The Christian understands that God does nothing in this world apart from a human agent. Even before Jesus, God used human agents such as Moses, Abraham, Joshua, David, Joseph, etc. God always works through people to accomplish his plans. Christians know that when we pray we are seeking the strength, the wisdom, and the grace to be prepared to meet the challenges of life in a way that best accomplishes our goal of bringing the love of God to bear in every situation. Love dictates how we address business problems, relationship problems, political problems, and social ills. A person motivated purely by love will address those problems far differently that a person who is dominated by greed and selfish interest. None of us is unselfish by nature. Prayer is the power that allows us to overcome our own destructive forces and channel into the power of God’s love and grace. Prayer for any other reason or purpose isn’t really prayer — or isn’t effective prayer. When I pray for my friend or neighbor, I’m opening up myself to be a channel of God’s love and grace so that He can impact their life in a positive way through me.
I have many non-Christian friends — some atheist, some Muslim, and some Jewish. Some are people of great faith, some find no use for faith. I love and respect all of them, but I hope that before any of us chooses to ridicule or criticize another’s faith or lack of it, we will at least take the time to understand them. If their faith or non-faith is motivating them to work for peace, justice, good will, and human betterment, then they are comrades and friends. Jesus disciples once wanted to rain fire down on some people they thought were peddling a false religion. Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are talking about. Those who aren’t working against me are working for me.”
It’s time we know who our enemies are. The evil-doers, those who are inflicting pain, injustice, misery, oppression, poverty, they are the enemy. Those perpetuating ethnic cleansings, human trafficking, hate-mongering — they are the enemies. We overcome those evils by bringing love, peace and justice to bear in those situations. Anyone who is working toward those goals is a friend. Let’s not crucify our friends, for the moment we do we become the enemy of our own cause.