Faith comes through hearing–and nothing else.
Does the above statement sound odd to you? Ditto. Thanks to people such as Dallas Willard, my former business law students, my legal clients, and friends like my buddy Brant and the conversations he starts on his blogs, I am concerned about the creation of a new language within Christianity that has the effect of completely turning Christianity on its head. “Christianese” doesn’t just mean, apparently, the introduction and use of terms that aren’t generally used by non-Christians (e.g., justification, santification, etc.), it includes giving every day terms completely different meanings when applied to Christian concepts. In too many Christian circles “faith in Christ” doesn’t usually mean trusting Jesus’ teachings to the point of following them over the ideas of others. You don’t have to actually trust Jesus to the point of following his advice (let alone his commands) in order to ‘trust him’ for Christianity’s purposes. Making his highest commands our highest objective isn’t what ‘following him’ means in Christianity. I know, surprising–counterintuitive even, but true nonetheless. A conversation with a pastor recently has made me realize that the phrase “faith comes through hearing [God’s word]” is coming to mean in some protestant circles that trusting Jesus only comes and grows through hearing. Not through the examples of others, not through love (other than the form of preaching), not through any demonstration of the manifold grace of God–just hearing the words. The key here is that despite how trust is generally fostered in people or even objects through actual displays of character and adequate ability, increasing one’s confidence in Jesus only comes through hearing the word of God.
How did we get here? When did we become so nonsensical? With every one of these steps, our practices take us away from the God we are to love and the people he wants to help. How did we get to where ‘trusting Jesus’ meant something so ridiculous and small? How did we make Christianity about something other than doing what Jesus actually said to do? Why does “I have faith in my lawyer” inherently mean that I follow his advice while “I have faith in Jesus” does not? I’m betting that Jesus knew what he meant by “follow me” and “have faith in me” and it had to do with what we actually choose to do.
I also think he knew what incited trust, which is why he loved, why he gave, why he healed, why he spoke and why he knew that the cross–above all else–would draw all of us to him. His love stood out like a city on a hill, and it still does. When we do what he said to do, we stand out, too.
How, with his story, did we come to think ‘trusting Christ’ comes (and goes) only through our preaching and not our actions? I think the lives of countless PK’s demonstrate perfectly what happens when the gospel words are given priority over the actions in order to inspire ‘faith.’ It is the worst betrayal and it does not foster anyone’s trust. Perfect love casts out all fear, which is the opposite of faith. Love from a powerful source eliminates fear, inviting us to trust. We’ve got to follow his example (and his teachings) of love to inspire in others the kind of trust he deserves. We’ve got to trust him in the normal sense of the term to make it look workable or attractive to others.