Faith is a fascinating term.
It’s certainly intriguing when we consider the first incident of Luke chapter 17 (verses 1-10). In it is a familiar saying about faith that if you have the portion the size of a mustard seed you can say to a mountain be removed and it will do it. It’s a familiar verse, but the context spins everything on its head in terms of how faith is sometimes regarded.
What I mean is that we often apply faith to certain things. I need faith to believe God for a spouse. I need faith to believe God to overcome this job situation. I need faith to make it through these exams. I need faith to believe God to get a house, a car, that stunning dress or that new pair of football boots like the ones Messi wears. Now I don’t dispute the importance of faith in those issues (OK maybe the boots and the dress might not be uppermost in my thoughts about faith, but still …). I don’t dispute the importance of faith when it comes to seeing churches grow, marriages flourish, businesses prosper and ministries develop and people added to the Kingdom and all those wonderful things.
I don’t dispute that, but that’s not where Jesus is coming from when he mentions faith in this context. The context Jesus refers to in this particular incident is when he charges those who follow him to have the compassion and courage to rebuke a brother who sins and if they come back and repent even seven times, they are supposed to have the courage and compassion to forgive them. When the followers of Jesus hear that, their immediate response is a request for a faith increase.
Not only does Jesus respond with the mustard seed word, he goes on to suggest that if we do what we’re commanded to do it’s not something for which we should expect anything in the way of thanks. a servant who does what they are commanded to do are just living up to the basic requirements of being a servant. Considering that in the context of what Jesus has just said, it implies that the courage and compassion to rebuke and restore a brother is actually the basics of following Jesus. We love them enough to look out for them, we look out for them to warn them and reprimand them if they go astray and we’re desperate to restore them once they express a desire to return.
To be fair, when you consider the cost that has on relationships, you can understand why the response of the hearers is for a faith increase. When you’ve endured hurt from someone, or when someone has seriously gone astray, it can be hard to understand and to restore them can be difficult. When that is happening one more than one occasion the strain it can cause can be considerable.
No wonder we need the faith. We need the faith because it’s only in believing God for the compassion and courage to be our brother’s keeper that we can truly reach the basics of what it is to follow Jesus.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden