Thursday, February 14, 2013

Faith and Faithfulness


I recently read this in a book by an acclaimed pastor, “We determined that faith is what grows in a growing relationship.  Specifically, a person’s confidence in God.  Confidence that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he has promised to do.  Faith, or trust, is at the center of every healthy relationship…A break in trust signals a break in the relationship.”

I agree that faith, or trust, is at the center of every healthy relationship.  And, this is probably splitting hairs with semantics, but I’m advocating that faithfulness is equally important.

The two words clearly go together—faith and faithfulness.  In relationships with other people and with God, there should be both faith and faithfulness.  But, that’s not always reality.  And, I have to say, I want faithfulness as much as I want faith.

I became married to the idea of faithfulness in a seminary class, Basic Pastoral Care.  Dr. Bagby proposed that a presupposition to pastoral care is faithfulness.  The idea is that God is faithful to his people; therefore, as representatives of God’s love and grace, we are to be faithful to his people.  That idea has defined the way I approach ministry and more.

When I think about my relationship with God, I hope it has both faith and faithfulness.  But, if I’m honest, sometimes my faith wanes.  The more I read from others further along in their faith journey than I am, the more I hear of others who experience such lapses of faith.  I’ve learned that when my faith is lacking, I can still be faithful.  The faithfulness is what gets me back to a place of faith again.  When I’m not confident that God will do what he has promised to do, I still follow him, serve him, and worship him.  God is faithful to me, even when I don’t feel it, and I will be faithful to God, even when I don’t feel it.

Sometimes, putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward in acts of faithfulness is all I can do.  And putting one foot in front of the other eventually leads me back to faith.

When I think about relationships between people, particularly marriages, I think they should have both faith and faithfulness.  But that’s not always reality.  Sometimes faith wanes.  Sometimes faithfulness ends.  I’ve seen marriages recover from both situations.  Faith, trust, and confidence in one another and in the marriage can return.  After a breach of faithfulness, a marriage can continue and become one of faithfulness again.

I know there have been times in my marriage when one or both of us have wavered in our confidence in us.  But we’ve remained faithful.  Always.  And faithfulness has gotten us back to the place where we believe in us again.

I want faith in my relationships.  But when faith fades, faithfulness provides stability and sustenance.  I’m aiming toward faith and faithfulness, but if I had to pick, I’d pick faithfulness.

1 comment:

  1. To your point, it's very difficult to translate the Greek word "pistis" as faith or faithfulness. It could easily go either way in the NT. So imagine the richness of a verse like Galatians 2:16 that has 2 phrases translated "faith in Christ", but could easily be understood as "faith of Christ" or the "faithfulness of Christ".

    More to your point, faith has become a highly misunderstood notion today, often correlated with the word "believe" as if it refers to something we agree with (yes, I know it's wrong to end a sentence with a preposition ... I did it anyway). Rather like love or hope, faith is more of an action and faithfulness is a better representation of what life should look like and what the Bible means.

    In other words, I don't "have faith" because I "believe" the right things or "agree" with a certain set of propositions. Instead, I live "faithfully"; I live in such a way to demonstrate my faithfulness to God, my wife, my children, my family, my community, etc., etc. I can say I "believe" in my wife all I want, but my marriage is determined by my faithfulness (and by the way, I do "believe" in my wife and continue to work hard to be faithful).

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