Home > Miscellaneous > Faith, Responsibility, and Hope

Faith, Responsibility, and Hope

I was told I should blog about this, and since, as you know, I do everything that I’m told (and I don’t feel like writing about the other topic on my mind), I’m going to. Here’s the passage:

Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against your seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

I was talking about this passage with some friends, then I went to the bathroom. As I was in there, I thought about this passage in a few different ways than I have heard it taught previously or than I had considered previously. Not that these are necessarily unique or new thoughts, just were both to me at the time. A lot of good thinking time happens in the bathroom, even when its only urine. My thoughts revolve around the Jesus’ last words and what they do in the context of the rest of the passage.

I think formerly when I heard these words, I responded to them much differently.

Strangely, I have always read this passage and thought about how I must have faith so small that it is tinier than a tiny mustard seed. But, I don’t think that’s what Jesus is doing. His disciples ask him to increase their faith in response to what he said about not causing others to sin and forgiving their brother regardless of the number of times he sins against them. In the face of these difficult insights and commands, the disciples felt like they could not live in step with the words of Jesus without more faith.

Jesus tells them that they already have enough. I think that while the disciples wanted their faith increased, they did assume that they had faith that was at least the size of a mustard seed. It’s one of the smallest everyday items that Jesus could have chosen. He didn’t use the mustard seed in his metaphor to tell the disciples that their faith was smaller than a mustard seed, but to communicate how much YHWH can do, even through an insignificant amount of faith.

So the disciples ask for more faith in order to live as their master lives, and Jesus tells them that they already have plenty of faith in order to forgive their brother. They try to place the responsibility for their inability to do what Jesus asks of them back on Jesus through their request for more faith, the implication being that they don’t have enough. Jesus puts the responsibility for their lives back on them and declares by implication that they are equipped already to humble themselves and forgive.

With that responsibility, he gives them hope. The Messiah informs them that they can do what He has asked of them in this area because of the significant power of the insignificant faith presently have. In that sense, Jesus also fulfills their original demand for more faith. The metaphor he uses functions as a faith increasing statement itself. By teaching them about the big power of small faith, they are encouraged to see their little faith as being more potent than what they previously understood. These are empowering words that promote having more faith in the power of faith.

Live empowered by faith. Take responsibility for your own life. Live with hope that, through faith, living out the life that Jesus asks of us, life that is truly life, is possible.

EDIT: Up next – A Few Reasons Why I’m a Jew

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  1. David C. Miller
    January 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    “Jesus puts the responsibility for their lives back on them and declares by implication that they are equipped already to humble themselves and forgive”

    But what do the disciples have faith in that makes it so easy to forgive? Is this faith a trust, reliance, and assurance in themselves, that they were really able to forgive their brother all along?

    Or is this faith a trust, reliance, and assurance in Jesus, that He forgave his enemies even when we were unable to, that He forgives men their sins, that His death has made peace for us with God and conquered sin, death, and the devil?

    Faith always has an object, there’s always something you put your faith IN. Having “more faith in the power of faith” is rather circular. We don’t have faith in faith. We have faith in Jesus.

    Forgive me for splitting semantic hairs. I get your point, and it’s a good one. Luke is also quick to follow this story up with a parable about servants and masters, lest the disciples (or Christians today) get too proud that now they have the awesome superpower of forgiving people and start to think it earns them brownie points.

  2. January 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Oh David, David… sometimes, sometimes… obviously it’s faith in God as revealed in Jesus… I reject faith in self as a a good thing… faith in faith is just a way of phrasing that makes sense in my head, sorry if it’s blasphemous… the point is the power of God through just a little faith…
    Luke’s story after that is pretty interesting. It seems to be a development and expansion of the same concepts. He talks about both the attitude that is necessary for forgiveness and why forgiving their brothers is not something that they should perceive as an overwhelming thing that requires more faith, because it is merely an act of obedience that a servant owes his or her master.

  3. David C. Miller
    January 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Well, look, sometimes I write these things and I go, “Oh, that’s what he meant. The same thing as me. Everyone’s on the same page. I need to drink less coffee.” But it feels weird to write two or three paragraphs and then finish it off with an “attaboy”.

    So I’ll leave that for this comment. Attaboy.

  4. January 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Well, I do appreciate your comments and the simple fact that you do comment. Sometimes I write a handful of words on one small passage to draw out a small truth within that passage and then I’m questioned because I didn’t also say other things that are true. I do laugh at it though. 🙂 I’m sure there is so much that we disagree on that we don’t need to pretend we are in opposition on issues where we are in unison. Thanks for the “Attaboy.”

  1. January 21, 2012 at 12:27 am

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