The Color of Faith

Feb 04 2018

The Color of Faith

There is a scene in the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Search for the Holy Grail” in which he finds himself looking across a large chasm. The path behind him has been laced with booby traps and riddles. He has come this far and the obstacle seems insurmountable. He faces the chasm and remembers a clue to “jump to the lion’s head.” If he jumps at the lion’s head he will be suspended in space and could fall to his death. On the other hand, all of the other clues have kept him safe so far. To jump, or not to jump? He jumps and lands on a transparent platform that allows him to walk across the chasm.

I love this story because it illustrates the issue of faith – to jump or not to jump - “a leap of faith.” 

Some of us found faith as a child, but what kind of faith was it?

Were you raised in a denomination that taught something like this – you were born in sin; you can’t ever do what God wants you to do; if you mess up God will punish you and if you do good things, God will reward you? Now think back to your childhood experiences in that denomination. Were you afraid of God? Did you make decisions based on whether you would be rewarded or punished by your parents as well as by God? What governed the decisions you made – fear or love?

Now, if you based your faith on how your parents treated you, and what the pastor said every Sunday, and you happened to be raised in a demanding environment in which your life was governed by punishment from both teachers and parents, my guess would be that your faith developed based on fear.

Into that image, occasionally would creep the concept that even in spite of your sin and nastiness, God loved you and showed it by making his son suffer for you, how did that make you feel? Feel about God? Feel about Jesus? And feel about yourself? At some point, you had to have some questions. At some point, your brain could not reconcile what you were being told.

Let’s take the image of God. We say that God created us with free will. That means we can make decisions. But it also means that we will be influenced by the environments in which we live and that we will make mistakes. The theology of Jesus suffering for our sins means that God created us with a free will which would lead to some bad decisions, and then God would hold us accountable for the decisions we make, even though we were created to make those decisions in the first place. So to atone for our mistakes – the mistakes God knew we would make - God used Jesus as a sacrifice.

If you understand the love of a parent for a child, if you understand the all-encompassing love that entails, how would you fit sacrifice into that when forgiveness comes out of love, not killing? There are parents everywhere who have loved and struggled with the challenges of raising children. Through all of those challenges, did you ever want punishment or pain for your children? Do you feel, as close as any human being can feel it, an unconditional love towards your children? Now what does THAT say about a God who killed a son?

There are different colors of faith. For some, the colors are black and white. For some, all of the answers must come from the pastor and the Bible. Those individuals want to be told what to do, what to think and how to act. That type of faith is usually pretty literal, pretty fundamental, and will tell you, week after week, how bad you are, how good God is, how much Jesus had to suffer for you, and focuses on life after death.

There is grey faith. These individuals know the world is not black and white and think that neither should their faith be black and white. So they pick something somewhere in between, but their faith doesn’t really impact their lives. God is God. Jesus is Jesus. They listen, but they don’t act. Their beliefs are shrouded in a fog of faith; they are never really able to see it clearly and connect it to the rest of their lives.

Then there is the rainbow faith. Its colors are constantly changing. From brilliant hues of red to subtle shades of blue, this faith is as vibrant as a rainbow. Some days it’s one color; other days another color. Some days are clear and brilliant; other days are muted and sometimes drab. But this faith knows that we are human beings created by God and loved by God. This faith knows that we are called to try to form a close relationship with God and to try to pattern our lives as much as we can after the life lived by Jesus. This faith demands that as the colors of the rainbow change, so does our faith. This faith demands that we ask questions within the frameworks of our lives that will evolve as our lives evolve. This faith demands that we ask questions and use our heads as well as our hearts to develop our beliefs.

In his life, Jesus made decisions based on how he could reach out to the people around him. He was not concerned with the black and white; he was concerned about the rainbow of beliefs he knew that people would struggle with, and he sought to teach them that the most important thing about God was relationship, not laws - relationships with people and relationships with God.

So my challenge to you today is to ask yourself, “What color is my faith?” Ask yourself what you really believe and why. Ask yourself how what you believe really impacts your life. Ask questions of your faith and do not be afraid of the answers. If the answer is formed from love, it will be the right one. Trust yourself enough to understand that God speaks to each and every one of us in a special way. Listen to the voice of God speaking to you, and do not be afraid. Amen.