In our culture it is quite fashionable to acknowledge a person’s faith. We’re likely to praise the strong faith that enables people to courageously cope with major challenges. This is true even in primarily secular settings.
Take an advice column like the “Dear Abby” column your parents or grandparents may have grown up on. Letters pour out all kinds of human woe and tribulation from those seeking wisdom. While dispensing the usual common-sense counsel, the columnist may affirm the faith that gives a person hope and courage and strength.
But faith in what or whom? That’s quite another matter. Our culture shies away from any ultimate claims about a divine being. Many people share the belief that all religions lead to God. So it is acceptable for politicians and citizens to say, “God bless America.” But it is not politically correct to say anything in particular about the God who is mentioned.
Why would an advice columnist make a point of affirming someone’s faith? Because she or he isn’t thinking of faith in the God of the Bible. Rather she recognizes that faith produces psychological benefits such as hope, courage, and fortitude. That’s perceptive. These qualities do help a person cope with what Hamlet called the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” But such faith isn’t centered on God; it’s centered on the person. It’s a humanistic faith.
For that reason, in today’s cultural context it is important for God’s people to make clear the source of our faith—the God in whom we put our trust. Our faith is not in ourselves, in that we carry a spark of the divine or that we have the capabilities to handle any challenge. Our faith is not in our nation, in the notion that it is specially chosen or exceptional. Our faith is not in just any version of a deity. No, our faith rests on Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord of the world.
Recently I’ve noticed that even Christian writing sometimes refers to a person’s faith without any reference to Jesus. I’ve noticed obituaries about faithful Christians that read along these lines: “She valued her faith and family first.” But there’s no mention of Jesus, the one on whom her faith rests. I’ve even noticed this in Banner articles.
Perhaps in Christian circles it is simply assumed that our faith rests in Jesus. But does it need to be said anyway? Yes! In a culture that often reduces faith to psychological strength, it is important to witness to the one in whom we trust. In Christian circles let’s be clear and complete. Let’s say more than “through these experiences his faith grew.” Instead let’s say that “his faith in Jesus Christ grew.” Together let’s lift up the name of Jesus.