There has been an alarming rise in outrageous actions carried out by Christians following the guidance or instructions of their leaders that have shocked the public. These have given the impression that faith in God leads to a ‘dumbing’ of people, and is a futile exercise that has no benefit for the individual and the world. Their faith has made them a laughing stock in their communities and driven some away from the Christian faith.
A contributing factor to this phenomenon is an understanding of faith as ‘blind’ – that is above reality and facts and also as ‘beyond the mind’ that is cannot be understood through applying logic or rationality. While there is a grain of truth that faith requires one to stand against particularly forces of destruction, it is never opposed or contrary to reason. Reason leads us to faith and prevents us from actions that destroy our dignity.
It is the fruit of such unreasonable faith that is a cause of concern, because it does not lead to the building of the kingdom of God, care of the poor, love of neighbor and contributing to just societies. Instead, it leads to actions that are of no benefit to anyone and are therefore not glorifying God. In contrast, the faith of Abraham and Sarah, which we read about in the readings for today, was expressed in a situation that was impossible and whose solution would defy biological laws. Yet, we see in their testimony a clearly thought-out faith, that weighed the impossibility of the situation with the greatness of God and the capacity to fulfil what was promised. The miracle was tied to a greater vision, that would benefit humanity as it would open the way for restoring the relationship between humanity and God. This was not a miracle for its own sake but a means for the salvation of the world. The focus of faith was on God, God’s purpose in the world and their mission or role in God’s salvation plan for the world.
So how can we cultivate the type of faith that Abraham and Sarah had, that was a catalyst for changing the world?
Three steps are suggested to assist us in our journey of true faith. The first step is to start with where we are, our limitations, fears and situations that feel hopeless or are in need of healing and restoration. The second step is to shift the focus from yourself to God and God’s purpose, which is always lifegiving and just. Lastly it is to pray and allow God to use your experiences to be a blessing to you and the world which is your mission in life. It is through us that God reaches out to the world. God takes our unique challenges and transforms these to be channels of blessings to the world.
You may not think that your life matters and that the difficulties you face have no value but faith that brings life to you and the world, believes that God is able to bring the promise of life to you so that you can become a channel of life to others. This is true faith in the steps of Abraham and Sarah.
To think about: How can you apply the three steps suggested to your life at this present moment?
Written by: Dr Nontando Hadebe, Regional Chair, Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.