Many people don’t like using “old” words from previous generations. Who uses “groovy” anymore? We are more comfortable using words that are contemporary, or at least with their “current” meaning. “Gay” once meant happy, joyous and having a positive attitude. That’s not what it means here in the 21st century. Despite this, the church holds tightly to words that no longer have meaning in today’s world, or are even used outside the church. “Faith” is one such word, and I am convinced it is misunderstood and misused.
Let’s use “today’s” words.
We see in the New Testament that “These three remain: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.” Oh, wait … I’m trying to use newer words that express the same concepts in more modern terms. Let me try that again.
We see in the New Testament that “The top three things in life are these: confidence, optimism and compassion, and the most important of these is compassion.”
If we are to take that as true, then how is it so many churches and other organizations focus on “faith”? Is that the main thing? What about focusing on love?
People have asked me “What faith are you?” That’s because we have allowed the word to mean “set of beliefs”, or “denomination”. Further, how is it that what we believe is so important? Isn’t who He is and what He did the whole point of Christianity? If there’s nothing that I can do to get into heaven, how is it what I believe gets me there?
Even more, if “faith” is really “confidence”, then “faith in Christ” translates into “confidence in Christ”. It’s an important thing to be sure, and I would rather face life with that confidence than without it! Yet it’s easy to argue whose confidence is valid and whose is inadequately based. What are you confident that Jesus will do? Get you out of a bad court case? Or get you a better job? If you were to ask people “why” they have confidence in Jesus, or in God, you may not get the same answer from everyone.
Further, being optimistic that one is going to heaven, and never lose that optimism, is great. I don’t want to live without that confidence! Like confidence, optimism is one of the top 3 attitudes to have. It’s still easy to argue optimism which may or may not be based on reality, or on a lack of perception of reality. I have been told that, as a Christian, I am delusional! That my optimism is misplaced! We may argue about what that optimism is based on, and we don’t all believe the same thing!
Also note, that both confidence and optimism are traits that focus on us. They are things which “we” have, and properly work hard to develop. Again, that’s not a bad thing, however, it’s not the best focus of our relationship with God.
How can I say that “love” is an old word? Well, I love pizza (especially thin crust with mushrooms, onions, and pepperoni) but I have no compassion for it! However, I love my wife and tell her so. If “God is (love) compassion”, then isn’t the compassion for others in our hearts and lives more important than the amount of confidence or optimism we have?
Matthew 22:37-40 And Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. NAS Bible, 1995 EditionNAS Bible, 1995 Edition, Lockman Foundation
How compassionate are we towards others? Especially those that are not in a position to be compassionate to us? Are our prayers about us and what we want? Mine have been, many, many times.
Compassion is much harder to argue, and there’s a reason. It is the best thing to have in our hearts and in our minds. There is nothing better. Look at how many people, of virtually every culture and every nation and in every language group that value compassion so highly. There is something about us human beings that recognizes it across all boundaries and borders. In so many stories, novels, poems, documentaries, and more when a character is compassionate their actions are described as being “humane” “divine” or “godly”.
Outside of Scripture, which do we honor most?
Both confidence and optimism are great traits to have. Yet, in today’s COVID environment, we don’t call those that are “optimistic” or “confident” our heroes. In fact, we are confused by all the contradictory information given to us by confident “experts” and optimistic leaders! They seem to change what they say almost monthly! Our “heroes” are the “front-line” workers in the hospitals and the first responders who risk so much just to help another person. They have a lot of compassion, and we recognize it in them.
We know that love is the most important. It is the best thing in life on which to focus. Isn’t it amazing that “God is Love”? In the book of John, chapter 13, verse 33 Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As it says in the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.” Not just love for our immediate family, or our church family and friends. But even for those that have different beliefs from ours. There are no details about another person that justify not having compassion towards them. None.
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!