By Faith

“Commendable: Adj. Deserving praise.”  - Google


What does it look like to have commendable faith?  That was the question posed at last night’s church service.  The reading was part of Hebrews chapter eleven which is basically this laundry list of people from the Old Testament that were all put in these intense situations where they were either asked to do these ridiculous or dangerous acts or told that these impossible-sounding things would come true, and these people carried out said acts and clung to those promises with nothing more to go on other than a voice from a dream or the sky or wherever, and just this outrageous sense of trust – this faith – that whatever was asked of them or promised to them would be.  They listened.  They believed.  They did their part.  Some of those individuals had tremendously positive outcomes.  Some were cut in half.  Literally.  Moral of the story?  Not all scenarios had happy endings but, whether the person triumphantly survived or were brutally tortured and killed, both were seen as equally commendable examples of faith – actions worthy of praise and imitation.  Interpretation for the modern world?  Things that are easier said than done.

Faith is – I think – something that people like to talk about without ever having to act upon – with Christians, anyway.  Myself included.  It makes for a good story and puts us in this positive light with the right crowd, but when the time comes for application we don’t even show up for the exam.  We sleep in.  We skip class.  And, it’s not even because we’re hung over from the house party the night before, it’s because we don’t feel like going.  We’d rather just stay in bed in our sweats where we’re comfortable.  I don’t know if it’s because we’re scared of the outcome, or embarrassed to be a part of it, or uninterested in the material, or what.  Perhaps the examples we have to go on seem to have set the bar way too high?  Maybe we feel a bit inferior.  Why try when the record is too hard to beat?  But, here’s the thing…

Faith – much like the people who have it – isn’t perfect.  The examples given in the Old Testament weren’t perfect.  Perfection is impossible.  It’s also not the goal.  I mean, we can’t be what we aren’t.  People have brains and thoughts and emotions.  We aren’t robots.  We ask questions.  We have doubts.  No one should just blindly follow.  We don’t base our decisions on what others think, we base them on what we think.  To come to our own conclusions, our questions and doubts need to be addressed.  Having those doesn’t make us inferior, it makes us human, but the question still remains:  How do we – as doubtful, questioning humans – live lives of commendable faith?  Very carefully?  I mean, I don’t know.

I think if we think of it in terms of the examples in the Old Testament, we’re likely to get lost in the “big-ness” of it.  In America we’re hardly living in a time of religious persecution, so I don’t think we can really grasp things that way.  We can’t draw any parallels.  I think we have to pare it down a bit.  One of the examples given last night was trusting that you are right where you need to be in life, even if parts of it aren’t living up to your expectations, but even then I think we can get tripped up substituting or confusing faith with complacency.  You’re supposed to go with the spiritual flow, right?  But, how do you know when it’s the Holy Spirit leading you or you just telling yourself what you want to hear?  Plus, the whole premise of faith is a tall order, isn’t it?   You aren’t promised an easy life, or a spouse, or a bunch of friends, or lots of children, or lots of money, or a great job the only thing you are promised is that by placing your faith in God as opposed to yourself (which, I feel, is a whole other challenge that could take up a whole blog post itself) – without full understanding of what is to come – you’ll receive an eternal reward.  Right?  Isn’t that the premise of Christianity?  That’s crazy.  And, it’s even crazier if you think about it in terms of those examples in the Old Testament.  Those people had nothing to go on, essentially.  In terms of precedence, Jesus hadn’t come yet to be humanity’s cookie cutter guide to life.  They had no tangible reference to consult.  Isn’t that insane??  That just seems really mind blowing for me.  But, I suppose that’s why it’s referred to as the “mystery of faith.”  I don’t know.  I feel like my thoughts are kind of all over the place, so I apologize if this seems a bit scattered.

I was talking with my friend about this last night and she brought up this movie “Silence.”  It’s about these priests who go to Japan to find this other priest who is rumored to have renounced Christianity.  Anyway, they get over there and essentially these Japanese Christians are being told to deny their faith or be killed and eventually, instead of killing them individually, these guys decide to offer the same ultimatum to one of the priests – deny your faith or X amount of people will be killed.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I mean, think about that.  What’s the right answer?  In that situation what is the path of commendable faith?

It’s a learning curve, I guess.  Or, at least, that’s how I see it.  I don’t know.  Something about that message last night just made me take a step back and look at all the different choices I’ve made.  If we’re talking lives “worthy of praise and imitation,” I feel I hardly qualify.  As far as living a life of commendable faith?  I come up a bit short there, as well.  This is how I see it:  Commendable faith requires discernment, which requires affirmation of your own beliefs, which requires confidence, which requires learning the material, which requires taking the initiative.  You can’t just sit around waiting for it to click.  You have to pursue it.  As for the discernment, that’s the beast right there.  Sometimes the answer is so obvious, you don’t even need the multiple choice answers read to you.  You yell out the answer before the teacher is even done reading the question.  Other times you feel like you know the answer but once the choices are given, you aren’t so sure anymore.  More than one answer makes sense and there’s no “Both A and B” choice.  Those are the times when discernment steps in and reveals your questioning, doubtful human intentions or your commendable faith.  I mean, you can’t really have one without the other – questions and faith – but the latter is to be superior to the other.  Right?  I don’t know.  I feel like I’m talking in circles.

Anyway.  I’m not even sure I’ve made a point but, going back to our original question, “What does it look like to have commendable faith?”  Depends on the lens, I suppose.  It could look crazy or convicted, foolish or fully logical but, whether we have the clear picture of events or not, we know the end game.  We just hope our discernment nudges us there.