Faith is a commonly used concept, but it is rarely understood in its rich semantics and philosophical implications. Christian faith rises above being defined by lists of doctrines, beliefs, moral principles, commandments, and liturgical rituals in the communicator’s mind for its nature and content to be faithfully represented.
Faith is more than its broadest definition, which equates it to religion or worship. In the Bible, faith never overlaps exclusively with the realm of religion. On the contrary, biblical hermeneutics leads us to understanding faith as a substance to which no domain of existence for rational beings is impervious. By transposing the “culture” of another world—the heavens, the place of God’s dwelling—into the foundations of the terrestrial world, faith becomes a factor that permeates and shapes human relationships, values, norms, knowledge, and wisdom.
It becomes a true source of culture, and a catalyst for thought, a philosophy of life. That is why the Christian faith speaks of the restoration of a perfect reality, and does so by infusing the world with hope and grace, and, implicitly, with the ability to live here according to the model of There. The Christian faith therefore proposes a saving relationship, which involves restoring our lost connection with God, and committing to a path of restoration that must finally be completed.
History has shown us that religion or faith is often altered by the predispositions, preconceptions, ignorance, or ill will of individuals. The institutionalization of religion has unfortunately had the residual effect of transforming faith from a philosophy of world restoration (which is congruent with the highest human ideals) into an often oppressive ideology, and an environment conducive to the development of the instinct to persecute.
That is why we need to find the kind of faith that is built on the essence of God’s character and law—to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”; to “love your neighbour as yourself.”
The ideas, attitudes, initiatives, or actions of individuals or institutions, of whatever nature and in whatever field they find their application, are not truly Christian if they are not permanently and completely immersed in the essence of the Godhead. Ideas and actions that can be labelled as righteous, correct, or legitimate, but do not respect the quintessence of God’s law—love for God and others—are not really authentic Christian ideas and actions.
This conclusion, which emphasizes both the loving character of justice and the righteousness of God’s love, is congruent with the Bible’s teaching that love is what saves, liberates, and guarantees freedom, convinces and nourishes relationships, transforms and preserves character, changes perception and knowledge, and builds and defines the functional society of God’s world.
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Such a society may seem utopian within the paradigm of the world in which we live. However, this way of communicating faith is not utopian, but ideal. In fact, in the words of the Bible, it means to speak as Jesus did. Jesus’ model is partially illustrated by the missionaries who went to wild tribes and tried to teach them the principles of a better, more holistic life, with love and altruism—not with pretension and trickery, and not with swords or mass baptism.
In this type of story, as well as in the life of Jesus, the emphasis falls simply and naturally on the ability of truth (not propositional truth, but embodied, lived truth, which largely overlaps with love) to persuade, to move, and to transform. If we find this faith, we have something to say to the world, again and again.