Thoughts for the Soul

Growing Our Faith

Posted on: May 26, 2019

The apostle Paul asserted when writing to the Christians in Corinth that “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things” (I Cor. 13:11).

Many newlyweds want to include Chapter 13 from I Corinthians in their wedding ceremonies. The text has little to do with the love we often associate with marriage, however. With this sentence, Paul aims to illustrate an essential aspect of practicing love in a Christian community—that we behave like adults.

My observations over the decades have convinced me that most of the problematic behavior in churches results from people’s inability to act like adults. Unfortunately, congregations (and pastors in particular) have not encouraged folks to “grow up” as Christians.

Many argue that being a Christian requires us to believe a specific set of statements about this or that, as in a creed. Such beliefs, then, provide essential content for our faith. This approach accounts for at least some of the alienation of younger generations from the church.

Another perspective is that faith is a process of life-long learning; it is not some magical, divine product bestowed by a church or a religion.

Biblical scholars point out that the Greek term we translate as “faith” is more accurately translated as “trust.” One consequence of the different translation is that “faith in God” becomes “trust in God.”

The process of life-long learning, then, doesn’t consist of mastering theological concepts or biblical scholarship. Rather, life-long learning centers on a self-awareness that helps us recognize God and welcome God into our lives.

One result of this kind of growing our faith is that different people will experience God and practice their faith in diverse ways. No singular “Christian personality” exists.

How our personalities develop is a complex process that involves our biological makeup, our nurturing environment, and how we grow into knowing and managing those two aspects of who we are. So each of us lives our faith in ways that reflect our personal biographies.

Returning to Paul’s Corinthian epistle, all this points to the diverse ways through which we trust God and practice sharing God’s love. This is good, because no one can be all things to all people. We are successful in this, however, to the extent that we commit ourselves to the life-long learning that helps us grow our faith.

That said, perhaps the T-shirt wisdom I recently saw says it best: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”
— Pastor Fogal

The biblical citation is from the Common English Bible.

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