It seems like there is a lot of junk in the air. All the pollution is making it hard for my faith to breathe.
I’m choking over the mass of information that makes its way to my attention: Gender equality. Contemplative practices. Missional priorities. Is James MacDonald right or wrong to embrace Bishop Jakes? There is seemingly no end to the things we’ll find to discuss, debate, and even divide.
And while we’re gasping over heated words and clearly defined distinctions, it seems like we let the priority matters ambiguously slip out the window to be evaporated into the atmosphere. Think about a Christian’s sound track—you know those words and phrases we say by means of habit. We close our emails with “Blessings.” Encourage the faltering to have more “faith,” the suffering to press into “hope,” and offer “grace” to the failing. Yet, do we know what these words mean? Do they find a reality in our lives, or just our words? Church culture is sitting in a stuffy-air chapel of over-used phrases and under-practiced truths.
This last week I wrestled with one such commonly quoted phrase, “For in Christ Jesus, neither [dos nor don’ts] means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). We’ve read and heard and possibly repeated this hundreds of times. What does it mean?
And all the junk in the air of Christendom has polluted my understanding and I choke and cough and sputter. I gasp to breathe what is purely true.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words first to an equally information-saturated, ambition-filled, rule-checking society as ours. The Galatians also strike me as gasping for a breath of clarity to cut through their confusion about what it meant to live as a follower of the Jesus way. They, like me, desired to stand firm and walk confidently in their salvation. They, like me, hear so many other “issues” needing attention that the reality of the ongoing activity of salvation gets reduced to footnotes and bibliographic material. They, like me, start pursuing causes and conditions, and the goodness, beauty, and truth of the gospel gets hidden in the toxic cloud of things church people talk about.
And so much of this talk doesn’t mean anything…because it doesn’t have anything to do with faith—the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. A breath of fresh, pure air—the assurance of a coming again Savior, the conviction of a life, fully redeemed, chosen, blessed, holy and blameless, loved wholly justified, free from the penalty of sin based on the completed work of Christ. All I see each day is my sin and foolishness. Faith tells me God sees me through Christ and His righteousness apportioned for me. It’s the main thing that matters so much, and we talk of
it Him so little.
Faith works—it’s the great energizer. Thoughts focused on Christ—the Promise that was for so long hoped for and unseen, the Incarnation of God’s character and love—can’t help but be faith-filled thoughts that energize, trigger, give more life to, and excite our love for Him…and the others who He loves. Faith brings us into the presence of the One who loves us like no other. Faith says, “I can’t see Him, but God is here with me, loving me.”
Love is contagious. We become like those with whom we spend time—in the presence of God we are in the presence of Love. A love that fills us up and rubs off on us, and consequently those in our presence can experience His love over-flowing from us. Loved people love. Loving people brings us back to thinking on Jesus and the way He loved…and so the cycle of faith energizing love continues.
I know the other issues matter, just not as much as we make them out to matter. For me, there are too many issues, and too little time stoking my faith. I need more Jesus–“Faith working through love” is just the fresh breath of understanding I needed for today…and tomorrow.
How about you? Are you so overwhelmed by the issues that they’re choking out your enjoyment of Christ? How would a fresh understanding of “faith working through love” throw open the windows of the Church to invite in the invigorating, life-giving presence of Christ?