Scripture: Romans 4:11-25
Whenever I read Paul’s letters, I am always struck by the apostle’s fervent determination to expand what began as a Jewish sect—essentially a small band of Jewish followers of Jesus—to include regions far beyond Israel. The missionary activity and the trials and hardships Paul faced as he travelled throughout the Mediterranean world to found the early church is simply amazing.
Paul’s letters present fascinating glimpses of the passionate discussions the Jewish followers of Jesus were having over what theological beliefs and rituals were to be included as this Jewish sect began to grow. In Romans 4:11-25, the contentious theological point is whether adherence to the law or faith in God is more important in the receipt of God’s blessing and forgiveness. Paul argues for faith, using as an example God’s promise to Abraham that he would found the nation of Israel, a blessing the patriarch received before being circumcised and, therefore, not the result of following the law but of maintaining faith.
I have always found the English word “faith” to be a challenging one. I grew up thinking faith meant believing in something you were told, despite the difficulties—to have “faith” meant believing “iffy” things to be true. But Marcus Borg says the word faith has other, richer meanings which I think are reflected in Paul’s example. Borg says faith has at least three other connotations:
- Fiducia – trust – refers to our commitment to radically trust in God.
- Fidelitas – faithfulness – refers to our faithful commitment to God, which must at least be the same as the commitment we bring to our most intimate human relationships.
- Visio – to see – specifically, how we see the world. If we are able to radically trust and deeply commit to God, then, says the theologian, Richard Neibuhr, our view of life is based in love and our vision of the world and creation is beautiful, nourishing, life giving.
Once again, I am reminded how even a few verses in the Bible can offer so much to reflect on and consider. The Bible is a rich treasure trove of thought and wisdom.
By Mona Smart
O God, help me to be faithful and live faithfully, serving you and receiving your blessings and forgiveness. Help me to radically trust and commit to you, O God. AMEN