– Can we increase our faith in humanity? –
“What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:26-28 NIV
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, the topic of increasing one’s faith in God was introduced. In Luke 17:5 the disciples of Jesus, while walking along the road up from Samaria to Jerusalem, asked Jesus for a ‘favour,’ if you will: “Lord increase our faith.” While they did not identify the object of this increase, we may reasonably presume it was a request to increase their faith in God.
I have long questioned, not their motives behind the request, but how this is possible, how such a request could be measured, as the word ‘increase’ suggests some sort of quantification. One might have asked, ‘And by how much … 25%, 50%?’ How much faith already existed? Did they all have the same ‘degree’ of faith at this point in time on their ‘faith journeys’? We simply do not know.
Jesus’ reply must have puzzled the disciples. He said, ‘If you had the faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’ and it would obey you.” Could they/can we see the connection between faith and power? Jesus had already talked with the disciples about mustard seeds, emphasizing the contrast between tiny mustard seed and the resulting product when properly nurtured. He likened the Kingdom of God to the mustard seed; in Mark 4:30/Matthew 13:31, He said, “How will we liken God’s Kingdom? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow.” The disciples’ exposure to the notion of faith in Jesus’ teaching [according to the Gospel record] so far was fairly extensive. The Lord had used the concept of faith in many parables.
So, it would seem that faith can grow in the same way a mustard seed can grow under the right conditions. But it must be sown … more about that later.
In Part 2 we probed a particular object of faith in the matter of material things, rather than the God who created everything we call ‘material.’ We determined that faith in material things is futile and untrustworthy. So placing more confidence [increasing our faith] in such an object as material things is simply unreliable as all this can very easily go up in smoke. Then we’d be clinging to wishful hope and regrets.
Human beings, being ‘religious’ by nature, (Genesis 1:26: being created in God’s image), and ongoingly vulnerable to many forces beyond their control, place a lot of trust in humanity. As they wrestle with atrocities of all sorts around them, they may blindly believe that humanity is improving and that when the crunch comes, humanity will rise above the threat. Even in some Christian circles, future global events are cast in a very positive way – in a utopian society, the ‘golden’ age to come, with innovative technology being the facilitator.
Is it really safe – in view of the horrible things one nation can inflict upon another, or one individual preying on the vulnerabilities of others can inflict upon them – to increase our faith in humanity? In the grander scheme of things, this looks like blind faith (wishful thinking). If we have been disappointed in what we see happening all around us, why would we put more trust in humanity? Can we trust that people will come through in a pinch when we need them?
We see so much hedonism (aka ’What about me first?’ thinking). We see so much dichotomy between ‘we’ and ‘them’, between cultures, between sexes, between nations etc. True, and thank the Lord, there are so many ‘play (pay) it forward’ acts of kindness. But like me, does that kindness come from surplus assets or does it come forth like the widow’s mite (Luke 21:4)? I wonder … in a pinch, how many would actually pass by an injured party on the roadside (Luke 10:25-37)? Though I am certain a number of kindhearted people would help, how many would do what the good Samaritan [from another culture!] did and see the injured party fully restored at their own personal expense?
Recently, I was waiting in a parking lot while my son was shopping for something. I could see a homeless man, a rather frightening figure, approaching people for a handout of any sort. He was a sad sight and I wanted to avoid him. All sorts of excuses, rationalizations and judgments flooded my mind. I mused, ‘I don’t have any loose change’; ‘ Why can’t you get a job, there are so many out there at the moment?’; ‘If I give him money, he’ll buy booze or I’ll be reinforcing his irresponsible lifestyle.’ And so on. Regrettably, he did not come near my car, nor did I see many people coming to his aid. So, I wonder, as a result, what faith he has in humanity in his desperate state? Was it increased that afternoon? I doubt it very much.
“Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” is an American Christian hymn [youtu.be/sQRYRCl0b7Y]. It was written by George Duffield Jr. in 1858. Verse three is clear about trusting humanity in our walk of faith. He writes,
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, You dare not trust your own.”
At best, we can only wishfully hope that our fellow human would ‘rise to the occasion’ in our time of crisis. There is no confident expectation here that holds up every time. While I can increase my compassion on the needy [and many do, with or without faith in God] I cannot be increasingly confident others would do the same.
It is only our faith journey, our growing in grace and experiencing the power of God, as evidenced in our choices, our testimony, that our trust in the Object of our faith will grow, starting out as small as a mustard seed. John the apostle writes, “Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world” and “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and which is already in the world at this time. You, little children, are from God and have overcome them, because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. They are of the world. That is why they speak from the world’s perspective, and the world listens to them” (I John 4:4 ff).
May the Lord continue to nurture your faith, not in things, not in yourself or fellow humans, but in His promises and His own walk of faith. Yes, the just shall live by faith alone, and praise God, they do.
Many blessings to you on your journey by/of faith,
To come –
- Part 4: What does an ‘increase in faith’ in God look like?
Our thanks to Paul Cornish for this devotion, one of many by various contributors posted by Haliburton United Church and Haliburton Pastoral Charge. If you would like to submit a devotion for consideration, please email us.
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