what do we have in the faith, whether to us it is religion or not?

There have been studies which supposedly indicate that those who have no faith or religion help others more out of a genuine heartfelt love than those who are of a faith tradition. The latter, it’s supposed do a lot of what they do out of a religious sense of duty.

Everyone is made in God’s image, so the idea that all can love wholeheartedly insofar as that can go is perfectly understandable, and even to be expected except in the case of some who have become so jaded in character that they are completely lost insofar as the ability to love and receive love.

But the notion that people of faith can seemingly have less genuine love is most troubling. I’m afraid there can be truth in that, depending on one’s religious or faith orientation. Theology comes into play here. What is one’s main take on the Christian faith as far as where one actually lives? Hopefully the reality that is present and sets in can trump at least some of that. But there’s no doubt in my mind that abberant thought affects one’s life. Augustine said something which fits in well here, to the effect that one’s interpretation of a scripture passage closest to leading one to love for God and neighbor is likely the interpretation closest to the truth. That echoes Paul’s words here:

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

Religion and faith can be helpful in keeping one’s focus what is good and true. If it becomes an end in itself, then it leaves one high and dry, and probaby all the more ripe for God’s judgment. Jesus had his harshest words for religious hypocrites, who not only failed to love, but preyed on those they should have loved.

But religion and faith can be quite helpful if it’s grounded in scripture and tradition, with reason following. We as humans need the salvation it brings, a salvation which not only saves us from our sins, but in so doing saves us for the love of God and others, even including our enemies. The gospel or good news in Jesus is the point of it all, a good news which takes us into the love of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and out into the world. A love which is not yet full bloom in us, but budded and growing.

What do we get out of the true religion, out of the faith? We get no less than Jesus himself, whom to see is to see the Father. The Jesus who rose from the dead, and whose love knows no end, being the very love of God himself. That is the difference.

prayer for Friday after Ash Wednesday

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer