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16 November 2017

Christians who lack faith.

Who don’t get much done.

Nope, didn’t title this piece “Christians who doubt.” Because everybody doubts. Which isn’t a bad thing. Jesus doesn’t want us to be gullible followers who can’t discern the difference between truth and rubbish. Mt 10.16 If we just put our faith in people indiscriminately—believe everything our friends tell us, believe everything our political parties tell us, never fact-check our preachers to make sure what they’re telling us is valid—we’re gonna be such fools. Doubt away.

But there’s a very particular form of doubt Jesus objects to most, and that’s doubting him.

So when we talk about “Christians who lack faith,” it’s about Christians who lack faith in Jesus. Not Christians who doubt their preachers and church leaders and churches. Sometimes those folks will try to mix ’em all together, and insist if you doubt them you doubt Jesus. Nope; ’tain’t the same thing, and don’t let ’em tell you otherwise. People will fail you, and Jesus is the only exception. Trust him; trust them as long as they remain trustworthy. (And forgive them when they screw up, ’cause they will. We all do.)

Still, there are a lot of Christians with the opposite problem: They trust their churches and church institutions. Less so Jesus. They trust people they can see, but they haven’t yet seen Jesus, so a lot of times they treat him as imaginary.

Often Christians’ll passively trust Jesus. By which I mean we figure he’ll be there for us eventually. Like when we die and need to get into heaven. Or at the End, when we need to escape the End Times. Or otherwise somewhere in the future. We figure Jesus’ll sort everything out later. While this certainly resembles faith, it’s often just procrastination: We’re putting off our problems because we figure Jesus’ll sort them all out in the end. It’s a half-step up from figuring the universe will sort everything out. It’s just as naïve. But more on that idea another time. I’m talking about not trusting Jesus now.

Now? Yep. We don’t trust him enough to do as he says. Go where he goes. Take the risks he tells us to. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s instructions or corrections. Where we are is more comfortable than where he wants us. We trust circumstances, not Jesus. That’s what I mean by unfaith.

Christians find all sorts of “Christian”-sounding excuses to dodge acts of faith. There are entire theological systems based on evading Jesus. Really popular ones too.

There’s the bunch who claim all the bible’s instructions are only for other dispensations. That Jesus’s lessons on his kingdom don’t apply till the End Times, or some other far-off idealistic future. They act as if it’s coming, but according to their timeline it won’t be around for another seven years. But that seven-year endpoint keeps sliding away. They keep putting it off, putting it off. They’ll follow Jesus then. Meanwhile, procrastination. (Which explains the fruitlessness—they’re procrastinating that too.)

There’s the bunch who claim the Holy Spirit stopped doing stuff in the present day. Often the same bunch, but there are a number who claim no, the Spirit does act; just nowhere near as often as bible times, and not as invasively as the Pentecostals claim. It becomes their excuse for treating him like he’s seldom there… or not there at all. Don’t let him guide them, empower them, help them. Imagine he’s far, not near. Imagine he’s imaginary, not real.

There’s the bunch who don’t trust the Spirit to instruct, guide, and convict fellow Christians. Instead they imagine that’s our job, so they spend a lot of time correcting everyone. Well, convicting everyone. Both Christians and pagan. ’Cause since the Holy Spirit’s not around—and they aren’t listening to him any—the fruitlessness stands to reason. When we don’t leave judgment and conviction in the hands of the only righteous judge in the universe, and imagine we’re all alone out here, we get weird and paranoid and heavy-handed and cultish. We certainly won’t even trust fellow Christians.

Then there’s the bunch on the other extreme: They don’t trust anything. Not apostles, not Jesus, not the bible, anything. But they will trust TV talk show hosts and clever teachers. And never double-check ’em against anything.

How faithless Christians behave.

If Christians don’t really trust Jesus, our Christianity’s gonna get rotten.

We’ll do few good deeds for Jesus. Oh, we’ll still do good deeds—but for ourselves. To feel better about ourselves. To get praise from others, and become known as generous philanthropists. To feel holier-than-thou, and tell off all the other Christians whom we figure aren’t doing the good deeds we’re doing. Since there’s so much self-interest mixed in (including a serious interest in those end-of-the-year tax write-offs), what tends to expose this behavior is when we’re challenged with good deeds that don’t benefit us any. You know, the sort of radical good deeds which actually cut into our time, cut into our finances, aren’t ever gonna get noticed by other people, and risk our health and lives. Challenged with radical obedience, suddenly we get really adamant about how God only saves people by his grace, y’know. Not our good works.

Or, because they’re easier, we’ll get really into our church’s doctrines. That’ll be the only good works we care about: Getting that right, and fighting anyone who gets that wrong. If you like to fight, here ya go: You’ll be fighting everyone. Scratching and biting one another over the true faith.

We’ll take few steps, or leaps, of faith. Our “risks” become nothing but calculated risks, based on a reasonable expectation of success. (Or the fear of being in big karmic trouble when we don’t act!) We won’t follow prophecy, and instead of testing it, we’ll just presume it’s hogwash. We won’t try out Jesus’s commands to see how, or whether, they work. We won’t pray for the impossible, ’cause we’re pretty sure God doesn’t break the laws of nature. We’re stunned whenever we see otherwise… and frankly won’t believe it.

We’ll cling to what we have, lest losing it means we never get it back. We’ll cling to what we know, for we don’t trust new information, nor the biases of their sources. We’ll do as we’ve always done: New ways aren’t tried and true, so they can’t be better. (Unless of course we invented the new way.) We often consider ourselves conservatives… despite the fact true conservatism looks to the past for what’s good, and a lot of us are either clueless about history, or reject it because it’s “too Catholic” for our sensibilities.

If we had faith, nothing’d be impossible for us. Mt 17.20 As it now stands, our Christianity is small, hard, narrow, self-contained, and gripped tightly instead of surrendered, in faith, to the one who’s meant to own it instead of us.

I’ve said “we” throughout this piece. I’m presuming most of us fit this description—and don’t wanna! Which is good; let’s snap out of it and start taking those steps and leaps of faith.

I also recognize a number of us are gonna respond, “No that’s not me,” even though it totally is. Don’t be arrogant: Think it through. Does your life reflect faith or faithlessness? Do you trust God and those he sent, or do you trust very few, and figure it’s just God and you against the world (and you’re not all that sure about God)?

For every Christian, let’s ask ourselves, “How far does my faith go?” ’Cause it can always go further.