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Faith must be more than a theory

It is human and tempting to regard ourselves as “people of faith” if we believe in some form of God.

We may even see our faith as deeper than it was if we spend a lot of time reflecting on the nature and content of that faith. We may be reading widely. If our faith is Christian, we are attending Bible study groups, rarely missing our Sunday worship services and we regularly participate in the Holy Communion/Eucharist. Obviously, people of other faiths may be doing the same in the form which applies to their particular religion.

All of this can be interesting and, in some forms, challenging. However, if the challenges only relate to theories about life and the mental content of our faith, it does not necessarily make us true “people of faith”. We need to ask ourselves whether all of our faith is in our head – but does little to initiate or change our actions to transform the world.

The “big anxieties” of life can all too easily be about theories which we rarely test with living out those theories with actions. True faith is far more than ideas, if it is genuine. The content of our faith challenges the way in which we actually live. If Jesus Christ had to be crucified, it was because Christ actually lived in ways which changed the world, and invited friends and followers to do the same.

Of course, if we resist translating our convictions of faith into action, it may well be because it would be costly for us to do so. One way to help us to have more wisdom and courage in taking action is to bring that into being together with other people. We can envision possibilities by reflecting together on what might truly be God’s calling for us and then planning and holding onto each other as we take even small amounts of action to bring this vision into being.

We can discover together what lifts our hearts and dreams as we bring our faith alive in action. This may well vary for different people. Some people find prayer and meditation, both together and alone, helpful. Others engage with music or write poetry as well as benefiting from religious services and sacraments.

Our attempts to bring about change, so that love, justice, honesty and ethical life are added to the world, may take many different forms.

We can begin with public letters of protest or suggesting inspiring ideas to papers or magazines. We can make posters and hold them before the public in protest gatherings or marches. We can speak out in various contexts and write books for the public to read, hopefully inspiring new ideas for community life.

We can create charitable bodies which invite the public to help us diminish poverty, violence and injustice and inform people more clearly of the truth of struggles and vulnerability which lie around us all.

We can relate to political life in different ways – asking people with brave and just leadership skills to stand for election or form new political parties, as we challenge politicians with letters and meetings and critique their policies.

All of these actions to live out faith, so that it is far more than a theory about life, can begin when we are quite young. Parents and older friends can demonstrate how we are called to enact our ideas rather than simply think about things. Children and young people can be given suitable ideas to show love in the world – to love their neighbours as themselves, so that they realise early in life what real faith looks like.

Of course, sometimes very young people see what true faith looks like, even before the adults around them. It was school children who led us to march on September 20 to show our care for the world under a changing climate, and also to reflect on all that might happen as we face the future.

We can tell younger people stories of things we have done over the years and point out the true enacting of faith in the religious writings which belong to our particular faith. The fact that we celebrate certain times in the year with special ceremonies like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost can be interpreted in ways which help people see them as encouraging and enriching the revealing of the life of faith to which we are called.

As we dare to truly live as people of faith, others will see far more clearly why people would be religious. Even if they do not choose to be members of formal religions, some people may be inspired to participate in actions which carry them into being part of a finer world – one which makes life better for a greater number of people and for the creation of a sustainable environment.

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