Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Faith Like a Lion

Christianity is not just a thought or an idea, but a way of life. Faith in our Trinitarian God should fully involve our whole beings. However, it is easier, safer, to keep God at arms length. One would not want to go overboard with this whole faith thing.

There is a time-tested way to avoid getting carried away with faith. Get inoculated with a weak case of Christianity early in life to avoid stronger strains of the religion later. Get involved, but not too involved. Have faith, but do not really do anything about it. Don’t pray, avoid reading or otherwise studying the Bible, skip worship on Sunday and every other day. Then when someone mentions Christianity, remind people that you already are a Christian. Let the pushy people who bring up faith know that you do have faith, but that you don’t have to go to church or read the Bible to believe in God or pray. That weak form of faith will help you keep a full-blown infectious faith at bay.

The only downside is that a weak form of faith offers little comfort when the world dishes out epidemic-sized problems. A weak faith may inoculate you against catching a stronger faith, but it will offer little help when your company downsizes you out of a career or the lump in your wife’s breast proves to be malignant.

Faith that will see you through the hard times in life must be more than head knowledge. Not just, “Oh yeah, I know all about that God stuff.” Faith should be something that is part of every part of you. That level of faith is not merely a vain hope that something might be right. Deep faith that infects your whole being comes through sure and certain knowledge that the thing you believe is true. That committed faith comes through trusting God and then experiencing that you can rely on God’s promises.

Begin by talking honestly to God about your hopes and fears. Pray for the things that concern you. At first it is the empty hopeful faith wondering if there could even be a God. But as you experience the ways that prayer changes things for the better, you will gain confidence and nurture a more active faith.

There is a story from Africa of what it means to have faith that is more active. Vincent Donovan was a Roman Catholic missionary among the Masai people of East Africa. In his book, Christianity Rediscovered, he writes of the challenges of translating the Gospel into the Masai language. He did his best to learn the Masai language and to tell the Masai people of Christ in their own words. One Masai elder listened to missionary each week for many months and came to except the Christian faith. Then he challenged the missionary on the word faith itself. He told Donovan that the word he used in Masai for faith means literally, “to agree to.” The Masai elder explained that faith does not just mean to agree to something. It is much more demanding, much more personal than that.

The elder explained that faith that only means “to agree to” something is like a white hunter who comes and kills a lion with a gun. The man stands a great distance from the lion and pulls a trigger. Only his eyes and his finger take part in killing the lion. The man is in little danger and is hardly involved in the kill. The Masai elder said, “This is not faith.” For one to really have faith, to truly believe” he said, “is like a lion hunting its prey. The lion’s nose, ears and eyes all search out the Savannah for the prey. The lion’s legs give him the speed to catch the prey. The lion throws all of his body into terrible death leap and the killing blow from her front paw. As the prey falls, the lion wraps her front legs around the prey and pulls it to her and makes the prey part of her as she devours it.” The elder finished, “This is the way a lion kills. This is the way people are to believe. This is what faith is.”

The Masai elder was right. Faith is meant to be more than simple agreement with an idea. If you want your faith to stand the test of all that life has to dish out, then you will need a more active faith. Trust God. Let God in to more and more of your life and you can have lion-like faith which others will find infectious.

The above is my religion column for today's issue of the Tribune & Georgian.



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