A follow-up of faith, exercise and striving

I’m still thinking about my last post where I called the following statement an Evangelical platitude: “In order for one to have faith, a person must exercise it.” I think some clarification may be in order. I call this a platitude, not because it is platitudinous in its essence, but rather that it has become one of those things that we Christians tend to say without considering the gravity of it.

Whoever first said that true faith requires us to exercise it said something profound and necessary. This is James’ point when he says that faith without works is dead. The point of all this is that faith is more than mental assent; it’s an attitude (or a posture) which inevitably leads to action.

Over and over the church has rediscovered that the talk is easy and the walk … well, not so much. That’s why there’s been a very long line of Christians taking it the extra step beyond what most of the rest of the Christians were doing. We could go all the way back to those first ascetics who left Jerusalem and Alexandria for the desert, in order to strive against sin and strive in the direction of God. And in that same tradition would be contemporary Protestant movements, such as the Navigators (at least as they were 20 or 30 years ago) who understood it wasn’t good enough to merely assent. Faith required action.

“In order for one to have faith, a person must exercise it,” is a platitude only so far as it is a profundity that we tend to take for granted. That’s why hearing the same sentiment from a different tradition … in this case, a monk from Mt. Athos … is always helpful to wake us from our slumber. As the deacon says several times throughout the Divine Liturgy: “Pay attention!” He says it because more often than not that’s what we need to do.

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