A lot of different words are used by the church to describe how one identifies as a Christian, ostensibly a follower or disciple of Christ. Faith in Jesus is definitely on the list. Faith, by whatever definition, is heralded as essential, but then we begin the task of trying to sort out what faith means. We often hear in church messages that faith is not mental assent, an acknowledgement of the historical figure known as Jesus. Supposedly faith requires right knowledge, commitment, appropriate action, and lifelong maintenance. If faith in Jesus is essential then faith in all these other elements of that faith are also essential. To trust in the benefits of Jesus means that I must trust in human intermediaries who distribute knowledge and stimulate commitment. I must trust that the sacred source book is correct after millennia of human management. I have to trust in my own ability to remain faithful- a big leap of faith indeed.
So faith in Jesus is quite factually a faith in the divine and the human with the human actually in control of what is represented as the divine. We could quickly conclude that faith in Jesus is not a contract with the divine at all. It is instead a contract with institutional religion. Everything about this traditional religious process is predicated on human capability and church theology. Jesus is actually on the sidelines, uninvolved, awaiting an unpredictable outcome driven by infinitely fallible men.
So, is there any alternative way to view the issue of faith within our attempt to embrace Jesus more meaningfully? Being troubled by all these questions is a starting point but where could those questions lead us.
The first place to begin a new understanding of faith might be to recognize that the Bible speaks of faith in Jesus and the faith of Jesus. Jesus’ own faith was essential. He had to trust that his death was necessary and beneficial. He had to trust that he would survive that death. He had to believe that his death was not a punishment, was not a result of his guilt before God. This observation opens the window to seeing faith in Jesus as our commitment to the faith of Jesus, a faith rooted not in Jesus the person but in the object of Jesus’ own faith, the Father of us all (see Acts 17:29). Faith in Jesus thus becomes an abiding trust in the very nature and essence of God.
Rather than faith in Jesus being the way to escape God, it becomes the way we embrace God. Rather than faith being the way we commit to right religion, it involves the right way to view God and our evolving relationship to Him.
Jesus does offers us an escape plan but not the traditionally taught one. He offers escape from religiosity and its inevitable exclusive righteousness by doing. This escape allows us to live abundantly in the spiritual freedom of absolute faith in the benevolence and faithfulness of the Creator who in the beginning declared mankind to be very good.