In a compelling message at his own retirement celebration this past weekend, Salvation Army Commissioner Jim Knaggs (Territorial Commander, USA Western) challenged those gathered to live out the faith. I’m paraphrasing, but he asked us a few questions about faith. Questions like, if we’ve got all the plans figured out, where’s faith come in? If we’ve got all the money sorted and we know where all the funding is coming from and where the expenses are going, where’s the faith? If we’ve dotted all the “i”s and crossed all the “t”s… where is the faith?
Essentially, If we’ve planned everything out, why do we need God? If we, whatever our context, are so used to checking off all the boxes and filling in all the blanks then we are the ultimate authority in our plans and efforts. In which case, what are we leaving in his hands? Where is the faith?
Whether we are in ministry leadership or volunteering our time, whether we are leading families of faith or walking our own path, whether we sit around the board table or the dinner table, we all have a relationship of some sort with this thing called faith.
Further, where else in our lives do we need more faith? A timely question…
As a people of faith, we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to demonstrate that faith. We have a responsibility to exercise our faith. We have a responsibility to be ambassadors of faith. We have the privilege to embrace faith.
We demonstrate our faith by rising above what has come to be expected in these times; name-calling, blaming & shaming, the indulgence of saying “I told you so,” the further division of the kingdom of God and the body of Christ, and the minimizing (read “vilifying”) of those with different opinions. These are not the actions or reactions of the faithful. Instead, we recognize, again in Commissioner Knaggs’ words, that the church is located at the intersection of “Grace street and Embrace street.”
We exercise our faith by not losing confidence in things above or that hope in what is still to come, both eternally and presently… which I am growing to understand to be profoundly and intricately intertwined. We exercise our faith by continuing to pray fervently in our homes whether our team wins or not. We exercise our faith by raising our children to value life and love and building good and beautiful things with and for others. We exercise our faith in repetitions of love, by stretching ourselves, and by caring for those we share life with.
We are ambassadors of faith. An ambassador is a friendly face in a foreign place. An ambassador knows the customs even though those customs do not belong to him or her. An ambassador understands the cultures and perspectives of those they exist to serve. An ambassador is sent to serve the best interests of a relationship, not of a particular entity. We can live kingdom lives without compromise.
We have the privilege to embrace faith. That is to live in the tension between known and unknown and let God guide us through. That is to live with hope and assurance, but still acknowledge that God continues to create from and with that which is unseen and unknown. That is to be willing to pack our bags and walk with God, even when we don’t know where we may end up. Because obedience in faith is a lot like being an ambassador. Both are matters of listening and serving the best interests of an ongoing relationship.
A bigger faith today means leaving something in God’s hands. It means knowing that while the story isn’t over, it is finished. That is to say that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we know who brings tomorrow and that he is big enough for whatever tomorrow may bring.
A bigger faith today means that our battles are different battles. As a people of faith, we are not at war with our fellow men and women or their differing perspectives. Our enemies have no political loyalty and we do not win at the ballot boxes. We are instead at war with brokenness and injustice. Our enemies are starvation, slavery, abuse, emptiness, poverty, addiction, depression, homelessness, inequality and their like.
A bigger faith today means drawing our lines in different ways. We don’t draw lines along the aisles, of the church or of congress. We don’t draw lines between our homes and those of our neighbors. We don’t draw lines between neighborhoods, between religions, between nations. We stop drawing lines and start drawing arrows. Instead of pointing out our differences, we bring help. We bring food to the hungry. We bring clothing and community to the cold and naked. We bring acceptance to the orphans and refugees. We bring wholeness to the broken. We draw arrows that guide, not lines that divide.
God, lead me into me a bigger faith.