Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fabricated faith

I remember the fairy tale of The Emperor's New Clothes.  Often.  Half the time I remember it, I've just left a church service where some well-meaning but misled person has called people to "have more faith" in order to get something from God - a healing, the resolution to an impossible problem, a financial miracle, whatever the case may be.

I don't deny that it's important to employ faith in our lives.  I don't deny that without faith it is impossible to please God. 

But there is no such thing as a faith factory or an assurance assembly-line. It can't be manufactured.  It can't be faked. It is not the product of human effort. 

I absolutely detest the popular phrase, "Fake it 'til you make it."  The idea behind it is that you "act as if" something you want (whether healing, or whatever the miracle you want, or the quality that you wish you had) is actually yours.  It isn't.  "Act as if" essentially means "Pretend."  In other words, "Lie."  

Lie to yourself - go ahead, everybody does it. (Seriously?) That doesn't jive with another term that I have come to depend on far more: "rigorous honesty."  

The way to get more faith is NOT to act as though you already have it.  The way to GET it is by admitting you DON'T have it.  And then you ASK for it.  Because, as Ephesians 2:8 so clearly points out, "... faith [is] not of yourselves." It's not self-produced; it's a divine gift... the same way grace is, the same way relationship with God is.  He takes the initiative, gives the grace AND the faith to believe.... why? so that NOT ONE of us can boast and say, "It was because I believed so much, that this miracle happened."  The truth is, it was because God decided to do it, that it happened. If we used the faith He gave us to ask for whatever it was, then we didn't cause it to happen.  We got to watch Him work; He gave us that privilege too.

This illustration from a modern version of
Andersen's tale - HERE
Faith doesn't come from a factory.  It is not man-made.  It is organic; it is life, and God is its source. It can't be manufactured.  It can't be fabricated. (Interesting fact: the word "fabrication" is another term for "falsehood" or a story invented by a human to cover up his or her nakedness.  Exactly like the Emperor's New Clothes.) 

In the well-known Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the sheisters came in to the king's court, and offered to make a unique suit of clothing for the emperor.  They pretended to have fabric so special that only wise people could see it.  Of course they had nothing - and everyone who saw them pantomime their creation doubted himself or herself, right on up to the emperor himself. Nobody could see anything; everyone was scared to admit it.  It took a child to point out that what these fake tailors had made was fabricated; it wasn't real at all!  Only the child had the courage to say, "The Emperor has no clothes!" The misled monarch was parading around in his underwear thinking that he was covered - when he wasn't.  All the faking it in the world wasn't going to help him make it.  The bare truth was there: he had no clothes.

Fabricated faith is what the Pharisees had - and they'd had it so long that they thought it was real!  They faked it all the time!  They put on a big show, did the whole pious act, thought themselves to have "made it."  But Jesus called them "white-washed tombs" - scrubbed meticulously clean on the outside, and full of death and decay on the inside.  If they could have achieved what was necessary by faking it, they would have had it made in the shade. But I kinda think they missed the point entirely - because they ended up killing the Point.  Instead of realizing what they had was fabricated - and getting something real from the Giver of it all - they plugged their ears and kept on in their delusion that they were doing God's will.

The point is that it is not, nor has it ever been about how worthy a person is, or how able a person is to drum up enough faith to twist God's arm into doing something.  It's all about how worthy HE is.  His initiative, His plan, His grace, His faith, His salvation, His perseverance, His love. 

We just get to go along for the ride.

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