faith learned in the real world

I’m still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There are not a few people, especially among the intelligentsia who dismiss religious faith, in our society (and in many in the world) the Christian faith- here often viewed as impractical, even anti-intellectual, pie in the sky nonsense. But Jesus lived in the real world, and was and is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Israel in nothing less than the real world. Jesus: God-in-the-flesh, God being in him, the Lord, fully human and fully divine, the Messiah, and again, living fully in the real world. Read the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Better yet would be to read the entire Bible: Genesis through Revelation. If you haven’t read the Bible before, I would suggest reading the New Testament first: Matthew through Revelation, then reading the Bible all the way through from Genesis through Revelation. It is a faith and gospel that is not from this world to be sure, but for this world. Yes, bringing a new world into this world, but not taking people into some escapist mode from this world as is common in religious cults.

Something I’ve noticed in scripture and in real life, specifically I can see it in my own, is that faith comes to birth through the exigencies, that is the troubles and trials of this life. And yes, the demands, even the everyday challenges–big and small, unusual and ongoing. Faith is designed for this world, and can be fully in sync with it.

Enter the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the above quote from him,  from Letters and Papers from Prison. Bonhoeffer’s life and witness is particularly salient when considering how faith is meant for real life. He was a pastor, professor and promising scholar, who even in his relatively short lifetime of 39 years wrote enduring biblical, theological and even philosophical treatises. Bonhoeffer was a Protestant- specifically Lutheran, orthodox, pacifist Christian who in seeking God’s will probably did participate in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler, so charged and executed. Bonhoeffer lived in harm’s way seeking to live and lead others in the way of Jesus through the sacramental and common life of the church. And the above quote along with the rest of his writings is telling for me in terms of the witness of scripture and the church. Faith is learned and often even comes to birth in the midst of trouble and the challenges of this life.

And so we carry on. Not wishing for escape from this life- even as we pray for God’s kingdom to come-, but seeking to find God’s will, even his salvation to be brought to bear in this life, first in our own lives, and out from that into the lives of others, into the life of the world. A faith that yes, can turn the world upside down (Acts), for this present life, as well as the life to come present here and now in and through Jesus.


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