I ended my last post by suggesting that faith is a radical openness to what God is doing. I want to expand and elaborate on this point because it can be taken in any number of unhelpful directions. I want to take it in this one:
Radical openness is not conceptual; it is not openness to anything that may cross your path. This is one way that faith is not a concept but a life; faith is not about ideas. That there are ideas about faith is not up for debate. But an idea is only an idea until a decision is made about the idea. Once a decision has been made, an action will follow. But faith is not the idea, nor the decision, nor the action. Faith is a continuance of all of those things. But we are still talking conceptually about faith, and faith is not a concept. Additionally, the faith of the bible is particular; it is not some universal principle.
Faith starts with being for others. “Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but for the interests of others” (Phi. 2:4). Faith as the radical openness to what God is doing demands an attitude of others focused living. This means working for the betterment of those who are less well off than you are. It means advocating for the rights of those on the margins. It means demonstrating concern for the helpless and the vulnerable. We call this love.
Faith is, at its core, loving others. My fundamentalist origin recoils at this statement, accusing myself that love is misunderstood, for love requires truth. But truth does not supersede love in the bible. In fact, the bible is little concerned with truth, except to say that Jesus is truth. Yet loving others still has a jagged edge to it, and we by our allegiance to a doctrine of sin are still obliged to love by judging. And this convicts us for our own inadequacy.
This is the second aspect of faith; the conviction of the self. When we are for others we see how we are not for others. We see our complicancy in the sin of our society. We see that we are guilty for what has happened to the victims, and what is more we see that we are them. Jesus’ parable in Luke 10 of the good Samaritan answers the lawyer’s question most surprisingly- “you are the neighbor.” It is not who is my neighbor, but rather that you are theirs.
Faith then is not rooted in some abstraction of being. It is rooted in the flesh and blood reality of Jesus Emmanuel; God with us. That he is no longer present in his earthly body does nothing to negate the presence of his spirit, nor to negate the concrete reality of his being evidenced by the physical presence of his church. But the church is not the the church because it says it is. It is the church because it does what Jesus says; it is for what Jesus is for. But it is here. It is present. It is physical. It is not ethereal, it is not mystical. That’s the thing. Faith is a life lived in obedience to Christ, not the service of our beliefs about him. If you think that what I am saying is self refuting, you are still thinking in terms of the superiority of belief.