I planned to have this post up last week. As it was, the ‘puter choked on a windoze update [thank-you Bill Gates] and landed a few days in the shop. Sorry, but these things can’t be helped. This won’t be the last time.
‘The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink ‘? “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” [Lu 17:5-10].
The ‘about‘ section in Darrell’s original Stuff Fundies Like blog says that the ‘five most commonly held fundamentals of the faith have been:’
The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture a a result of this.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.
Affirmed ubiquitously in IFB ‘what we believe’ documents in sects and websites, ‘Articles of Faith’ type ‘faith’ differ greatly from the meaning of faith in the sense that we trust Christ as our only comfort in life and in death. That ‘faith’ as ‘what we say we believe’ and ‘faith’ as a lifelong walk with Christ matters for this post.
In IFBdom, ‘faith’ tends to mean ‘converted.’ ‘Increasing in faith’ likely means bigger ‘faith-promise’ pledges. Or, you trust God to strengthen you to take on more ‘church jobs.’ Or you must stop questioning the pastor’s twist on some passage. It may mean that you should alter your preferred future to gain a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology to be a stay-at-home wife of an immature, self-centered, egotistic, narcissistic pastor’s son.
Beyond platitudes to ‘trust God’ and ‘lean not on your own understanding’ in such matters, ‘increased faith’ in IFBdom tends to devolve into sticking with the local sect/pastor through think and thin. The problem is, the IFB take on ‘faith’ doesn’t always look particularly like Bible faith.
Increased Faith — for What?
Lu 17:5-10 makes a good text for browbeating the unbelief of delinquent members who pay the pastor too little servility and obsequiousness. But in Lu 17:5ff, that isn’t what ‘faith’ means. Nor does it mean ordering around local mulberry trees as if they were members. ‘Increase our faith’ relates to what was just being discussed. And what was that?
‘”Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” [Lu 17:3-4].
Why would Jesus tie increased faith to forgiveness? Is he saying that it’s easier for us to command trees to move than it is for us to forgive?
‘And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him’ [Lu 17:4].
Increase our faith indeed!
But who gets Forgiven…
The last several previous posts focused on Lu 17:1-4. But who exactly are the ‘little ones’ in Lu 17:2? And what does that ‘stumbling’ mean?
‘Little ones’ translates ‘mikros.’ It can mean short people, young people, or insignificant people. I’ll go with the last group, further unpacked by such words as ‘lowly’ or ‘unimportant.’ Think of people without rank, standing or influence in society, or in church culture for that matter.
Perhaps most telling, Jesus defines them as those who need forgiveness over and over and over and over and over again. Theoretically, that means all of us. But this tends to be reserved for those on the margins — the unwed teen, the young man struggling with his homosexuality or with some addiction. We sometimes call them, ‘those people.’
It begs to be asked, ‘what if “THOSE” are the people we’re supposed to forgive time after time after time after time.’ What if NOT forgiving ‘THEM’ is the occasion of ‘scandal’ [stumbling] that makes them fall?
Yet as they repent, they are forgiven. Every time they get drunk. Every time they sell their body for bread. Every time they get caught cheating.
Lastly, imagine that after all this hard work of forgiving, confessing:
‘…we have done only what we ought to have done’ [Lu 17:10].
The great thing about the gospel is that it has plenty of ‘scandal’ for all.
It’s when we forget that and put ourselves above others that we blow it.