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An ongoing discussion among New Testament scholars concerns the translation of the Greek phrase ‘pistis Christou’ in a number of passages in St Paul. Does it mean faith in Christ or the faith (fulness) of Christ.
You might say, as the world seems to be falling apart, does it really matter? Well, yes and no. Not so much, from the point of view of dealing immediately with the crises of economic justice, Covid, the environment and Ukraine. But from the point of view of how we can develop a new consciousness through Christian and other wisdom traditions to deal with the aftermath of these crises and to change our direction, yes it does matter.
The difference in the translations highlights the difference between putting the emphasis on ourselves or upon Christ. If the faith that moves mountains and heals humanity means predominantly our faith in Christ, the meaning of faith might be reduced to something controlled in human willpower or just to concepts and belief. This attitude has weakened the living connection of personal Christian faith with its source, the person of the risen Christ. If, on the other hand, the emphasis falls upon his faithfulness, the chemistry of faith and the alchemy of his relationship to humanity is changed. We are no longer trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Instead, we experience an additional force working with us from another dimension. The faithfulness of Christ generates and releases this force through all the dimensions of time and space: the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
What or who is Christ faithful to? This is the key question and the many ways of answering it eventually resolve, not in an answer but in a fulfilled relationship. To himself, to his calling, to the Father, to his love for humanity, to the innate faithfulness of God.
To be faithful manifests the greatest potential and beauty of humanity. Think of how our often damaged faith in human nature is renewed when we celebrate a marriage that has endured through decades, or of a person who has stayed faithfully committed to a work for a lifetime, or of someone who keeps a pledge even though it will cost them far more than they had thought it would.
As in most disputes about this or that, there is a truth in both positions. The faith of Christ empowers our faith in Christ. But it takes faith in the living mystery of truth to see that the answer lies beyond the division not in the victory of one over the other.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022
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