“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, December 31, 2007

Walk by faith not by sight

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we read the phrase that we "walk by faith not by sight." Lately I have been thinking about how knowledge focused the Christian church is. Just think about the way we do everything from the worship service to Sunday School, to Bible study and it is all about knowledge. You might respond, "Duh...it is called Sunday SCHOOL and Bible STUDY." But I would respond that perhaps we have the focus of Sunday school and Bible study, and even the Sunday morning worship service wrong. You see, like you I have heard "walk by faith not by sight" probably a thousand times to the point that it just rolls off my tongue. I get it that I am supposed to have faith. But it struck me that I wonder whether I really do get it. "Walk by faith not by signt." What does that really mean? Is my church teaching me to walk by faith?

Well, we are to live by faith not by sight. But everything the Church seems to do from an educational perspective is all about walking by sight. We have an emphasis on knowledge which is simply a form of sight. We have an emphasis on knowledge development/sight develoment over faith development. We act as if sight and faith were the same thing. But Paul clearly distinguishes the two. How does one develop one's faith over just developing one's sight? Well I develop sight by increasing the ability to see things. I can help people to understand things by for example parsing out or unpacking scripture. But I wonder about the degree to which this unpacking leads to faith development. The assumption is that it does. We look for pastors who can explain the scriptures to us clearly. People with advanced degrees in theology.

The verse, however, seems to say that we don't live on just what we see, we don't live on just what we understand, we don't live on just what we can explain to others. As someone who is 52 years old and who has been in church and a Christian all my life, there are few things I can hear in a sermon that are really brand new. I delight when I learn something new, but new knowledge doesn't mean a sudden boost in my faith. I just think, "Oh, I hadn't thought about that before."

Faith development is harder it seems. It challenges me to do things that I perhaps would not choose to do, or to be consistent in doing things that I would rather not be consistent about. I do those things because I know they will develop my faith. They will take me to a place in my walk with God that I haven't been to before. Attending church can be one of those places of consistency, however, I think the church has missed all it could be in taking that consistency in attendance and truly making it into faith development in the lives of the attenders. It is almost like we treat people like they are going to school rather than attending church. Additionally our measures of faith seem misguided by notions of knowledge, of living by sight.

People speak of blind faith as kind of the ultimate put down of those who are religious. Clearly we are to have the knowledge to explain the "hope that is within us" but there is an aspect of faith that is experiential. If my experience with faith is like school, then I should expect that I am developing as a person who is living by sight. If my experience with faith is faith challenging or faith facilitating, or causes me to step out "blindly" I will develop as a person living by faith. When was the last time that your church challenged you to really step out in faith in anything other than your giving money to that church? Is that all faith relates to? Why am I not challenged to step out in other areas related to faith development, like loving people who are really hard to love, like bring people to church who will make others uncomfortable, or people who will make demands on me? Why are churches always begging for Sunday school teachers? These experiences at least in part point to the same thing. We are too often developing people who live by sight and not by faith. What is in it for me (sight)? How will this cause me to grow (faith)? The questions that people learn to ask are very different if they are living by faith.



Anonymous said...

I see what you are getting at with your message "walk by faith not by sight," but I understand things a little differently. The more time I have spent learning about God through his word, prayer, fellowship with believers, serving, and prasing Him, the more I have learned to walk by faith and not by sight. I attend a small church with about 80 members. About 3 years ago the praise leader turned away from the Lord, and left myself and another by ourselves. I joined the team originally with the intention of just being a back up vocalist. I wanted to use my talent to glorify the Lord. After the leader left I and the percussionist were left to lead our church in the singing of praises. I had just recenlty recieved a guitar for Christmas, but did not know how to play. Had I not understood that God has asked for worshippers and not singers, I may have never stepped out on faith. I felt that I didn't have enough musical talent to lead a group of people. Prasie the Lord that I was with a body of belivers who encouraged and supported an untrained musician. Over the years I have been faithful to serve the Lord and He has blessed our musical team with new talents, and understanding of what it means to worship Him. He has shown me that singing is only one way of worshiping him. I have seen people make impulsive decsions that were linked to their lack of understanding about God and lead them into trials that were unneccesary. The preaching and teaching of correct doctrine must be of up most importance to us. This is a form of worshipping our Lord. We were created to worship, and enjoy the Lord forever. My understanding of walking by faith and not by sight at this point in my walk is this: the more one is in fellowship with the Lord, the more that one will desire to serve and please the Lord and truly walk by faith trusting the Lord completely.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you are saying. I have been working as a nurse for several years now. I have felt that God is calling me to become a teacher ever since I can remember. I have taught Sabbath School for kids, coached varsity teams in high school and Jr. High and have helped tutor kids. I was not just a teacher to them but a counselor and another adult in their life that they can turn to when they need help. When I tell people that I want to be a teacher, they say things like "I can totally see you being a good teacher. But why do teaching when you will never make the same amount of money as you are now with nursing?" I have stuggled with this and this last year I have jumped out in faith. If this is what God wants me to do than he will open doors for me and provide what I need to teach his children. I get upset when I go to coach at a christian school and teachers get so worn down from day to day teaching that they forget why they are teaching at a Christian school. What kind of lessons and examples are we giving the kids that we teach? I completely agree when you say that church (and I want to include Christian schools) should teach more about the walk of faith than about how many books are in the Bible and who said what etc. If you jump out in faith and trust God, he will guide you and lead you where you need to go. One last point you made, where you talk about how to teach others to love. It is easy to love your friends and family. It is much harder to love those who do wrong to you or are your enemies. People who are hard to love are the ones we should be working on to love!

Anonymous said...

If a blind person study the bible and learns that Jesus heals the blind but did not heal him, he is walking by sight because he wants to see the miracle happens in order to believe. But if he believes that Jesus heals the blind and will bear witness to it even if he has never seen the miracle, he is walking by faith.