Summary: Faith directs us to glorify God, to serve others and to build ourselves spiritually - all at the same time.
Sometimes, when I watch sports at home, Hannah will sit down beside me and watch the game with me for a few minutes. Eventually she'll ask who's playing and who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Then she'll say something to the effect of “whoever wins – I like!” Now, in the context of the sports I usually watch on TV “whoever wins – I like!” usually means she's rooting for whoever the Toronto Maple Leafs happen to be playing on any given night! So one night she's rooting for the Montreal Canadiens, one night for the New York Rangers and – even worse – one night for the Ottawa Senators! I, on the other hand, value consistency and stick with my favourite team through thick and thin – and it gets thicker and thinner all the time, let me tell you! In our society, consistency is usually a valued commodity. Usually if we speak of something or someone going off in different directions at the same time, it's not a positive comment – in general it's a criticism. It reeks of trying to be all things to all people – not in the constructive biblical sense of being in solidarity with whoever you happen to be sharing the good news with, but in the negative sense of either not being willing to take a stand or of taking different stands with different audiences to curry favour. If a political party, for example, makes one promise in Quebec and a completely contradictory promise in Alberta then they're going in two different directions at the same time and pandering for votes rather than standing for principles – and we don't respect them for it. One area, though, where it's possible to constructively move in different directions at the same time is in the life of faith. Faith impacts us in a variety of ways and guides us in a number of directions all at the same time, and the impact of that always moving faith then establishes for us the conviction that we are the beloved children of God. In this morning's reading, after he gave thanks to God for the faith of the Christians in Colossae, Paul mentioned these different directions faith takes in the lives of God's people.
First, faith is directed upward. ... we have heard of your faith in Jesus Christ ... Paul wrote. The Colossians were apparently a people of deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. If it weren't so, Paul would hardly have mentioned it. We need to get into Paul's mind as he wrote those words. What did he mean when he commended the Christians of Colossae for their faith? In our 21st century pluralistic world, we've somewhat lost the significance of the word “faith” - if only because we understand it pluralistically. “Faith” for us in the modern world has become merely any expression of religious belief (Christian or non-Christian) or it's become adherence to a set of doctrines – dogma without any necessary transformative power. Paul understood faith as something very different. For Paul, “faith” inevitably meant faith in Jesus Christ. Paul understood the concept of pluralism. He understood Judaism, and he worked among Greek pagans (and he showed respect to both) but when he spoke of faith he meant not adherence to a religion (and not even adherence to the church) but rather a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. This was faith for Paul. Faith was directed upward in the direction of the God Who chose to be revealed in Jesus Christ. Faith can't be separated from Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ can't be separated from God. Jesus Christ was the Saviour sent by God to reconcile all people to God (Jews, pagans and Christians alike – because they all needed salvation), just as Jesus Christ is still the Saviour today sent by God to reconcile all people to God (Jews and Moslems and Hindus and Buddhists and Christians alike – because we all need salvation.) Faith has a naturally upward orientation because faith pushes us to see and to know that which is beyond us.