If you ask someone about their faith,
they may describe it in terms of a creed or a document. In many
church services there is a part in which a statement of faith is
recited, be it the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed, or something
else. Orthodox Friends might reference The Richmond Declaration
of Faith. If you ask me, I am
likely to go into a discussion of Barclay's Apology.
We tend to view our faith as if it were the same as our beliefs. I
am as likely to fall into this trap as anyone. But I don't think
that God is particularly interested in theology.
Jesus is always
asking his followers whether they believe, whether they have faith.
But it is always, do you believe in me, do you have faith in me?
When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, (Matt 14:22-33), Peter
said, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said come and Peter boldly stepped out of the boat and started
walking on the water. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became
fearful and began to sink and called out to Jesus, who reached out
and saved him. Then Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why did you
doubt?” This was not the faith of intellectual belief that he was
asking about, this was a question Peter's faith in the power of God
to hold him up.
When Jesus healed
people, he was clear that it was a matter of faith. Not faith in
dogma or scripture but faith in Jesus' ability to heal. When the
centurion came and asked Jesus to heal his servant, (Matt 8:5-13) the
centurion says, “Don't bother coming to my house, I am not worthy.
Just give the order and he will be healed.” Jesus said, “Truly I
tell you, in no one in Israel have i found such faith.... Let it be
done to you according to your faith.”
But how does this
translate to our lives today since Jesus lived and died some 2,000
years ago? This was the key insight of George Fox that Christ can
still speak to us. “There is even one Christ Jesus who can speak
to your condition.” “Christ has come to teach his people
himself.” This was the wondrous news that made Fox's heart jump
for joy. Christ can be known inwardly and we are invited to live in
relationship with this inward Christ, just as the disciples lived in
relationship to the outward Jesus in Galilee. They saw this as a
fulfillment of the prophesy of Jeremiah 31:33-34, “ But this is the
covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,
says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on
their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know
the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to
the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and
remember their sin no more.” This is a call to know God and to be
in relationship with God.
Christians are right on the mark with their question “Have you
accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” if they
mean by that, “Do you trust the voice of Christ within you to lead
you to healing and greater love and understanding?” But for me,
this question carries with it a sense that there is only one
relationship to have with Jesus and our experience of the Divine
takes a single form. If you haven't had a particular experience or
if your relationship with God is different, then you are, at best, a
second-class Christian. The Biblical record contradicts this. God
appears to people throughout the Bible and each event is unique. God
walks with Adam in the cool of the morning. God appeared to Abraham
in the form of 3 strangers walking down the road. Moses encountered
God in a burning bush. Jacob wrestled with God through an entire
night. God answered Job out of a whirlwind. God appeared to Elijah
as a still small voice after the whirlwind, the earthquake and the
fire had all passed by. The miracle of Pentecost was not that the
apostles spoke in tongues. The miracle was that the apostles spoke
and every listener heard them in their own language. God is always
speaking to us in our own language and in the context of our own
knowledge and experience. If we have a personal relationship with
God, than each relationship will be unique, just as each of us are
unique. And each of is is being called into relationship with God.
Labels: Christian Education, faith, relationship