We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people. Colossians 1:3-4
In reading the few surviving Christian texts from the second century, I’m struck by the importance of two small words: faith and love. St Ignatius of Antioch related them to the Eucharist, and they were associated with the disciple’s way of life.
I speak with people who know a lot about world religions yet have questions about faith. All religions have belief systems and practices, yet these are insufficient to nurture or sustain faith. It presents the kernel that makes religion sustainable and purposeful.
Without faith, we can believe what we like, yet it exercises little influence on us apart from disciplined and repetitive practices. These may offer some comfort through familiarity, yet never the freedom and life that springs from faith in God.
Faith gives me confidence despite my questions. Whilst healthy, not all questions enjoy satisfactory answers. They deserve debate and scrutiny, yet in the knowledge that they may never be answered through rationality, or within our limited human capacity.
In fact, faith always retains a measure of mystery, for faith is born of trust, itself insubstantial. I give my trust with no guarantee that I won’t be disappointed. Yet, I give it based upon an inner confidence that is only shaken when such trust is betrayed.
I’ve experienced many severe challenges and frustrations to my faith. I’ve also chosen to betray the trust God has placed in me.
Yet, unlike me, God never chooses to withdraw the trust invested in me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve returned to God, ashamed and sorry. This prodigal has disappeared to live amongst the pigs far too often.
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