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Faith

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

Faith as promise is a quality or an adjective--faithful, it is the quality within a person which enables another person to Trust them. Often dealing with an MLCer is a practice in having Faith in your MLCer even in the absence of Trust. Faith is about possibilities, what they can do; Trust is about what they will do and is based on experience in the context of present conditions.

The Bible says that Faith is from God; we do not have it from within ourselves, but it is given to us as a gift. Conversely, action and experience are the creators of Belief which is an internal product.

Faith is an assurance in the benevolence of creation. Since Faith is God-given, it is God providing assurance. But for those who are not religious this definition can still apply. To me creation is everything--the universe--and Faith is an assurance in the benevolence--the goodness--of everything. There is evil in this world, but it is often self-created and in the end, though we do not always behave with benevolence, I believe that we are inherently benevolent creatures. The universe distills to love in its essence; in that I have Faith.

Martin Luther on Faith

[Some people] think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, ''I believe.'' That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this 'faith,' either.

Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.

...Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith.1

Luther tells us that Faith is not something we create or develop within ourselves, but something God plants within us. It is similar to Agapé in that it is always available, but we must choose to access and use it. When we are using our God-given Faith, we will be living a life that not only honors God, but honors all of creation. We will be good stewards because such a life is an aspect of Faith. To sin is to turn away from God; in the context of Faith we sin when we are choosing to not access and utilize our Faith, but instead deny it.

Faith is not a quantifiable element. True, in Matthew 17 Jesus told his disciples they failed to cure a child because of their little faith, but the mustard seed passages is different in Luke:

3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, "I repent", you must forgive.'

5The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' 6The Lord replied, 'If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea", and it would obey you. (Luke 17:3-6)

God gives us our Faith, he would not provide is with an insufficient supply. It is the strength of our Faith, not a quantity, that affects our lives and the strength is a product of use. Unlike Belief, Faith is not based on observation, evidence or experience. Like our physical organs, it is present in each one of us--a spiritual or conceptual organ. But Faith is not science, it is not objective but subjective and cannot be measured, though its existence can be observed through its influence. Faith is not about doctrine or dogma; it doesn't care about the historicity of beliefs; facts and figures, years and dates are irrelevant to Faith. It shows us Jesus' goodness without caring whether he is the divine son of God; that is about belief. The good news Jesus brought regarding Faith was a demonstration of love for all creatures; he modeled a way of life worthy of emulation. We activate our salvation by activating our Faith; it is not merely believing creation is good or believing in doctrines, but what you choose to be because you believe those things; Faith is active. Faith enables Surrender because the action of Faith trusts and this produces the necessary strength for Surrendering. But even in the course of Surrender, Faith is active; as Luther says a few lines later in his Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans:
Because of [faith], you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!2

Good works are a result of Faith. When we are using our God-given faith, we will be living a life that not only honors God, but honors all of creation. We will be good stewards because such a life is an aspect of Faith.

What does this mean in the context of Standing?
It means that your MLCer is good. We are all good. And yet we are all sinners; we all have moments of varying length when we turn away from God, but even in those moments our Faith is available for us to use to turn ourselves toward God once again. Faith is like Grace in that it is a free gift from God that influences our actions toward goodness. It influences our perceptions of the world. Attitude literally means the angle of attack, but Faith revises attitude so that rather than an angle of attack it is an angle of love; it determines not merely how we love, but that we love--that we approach situations with an angle of love.

Sources

  1. Luther, Martin. Tran. Rev. Robert E. Smith "An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans." Luther's German Bible. 1522.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
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