Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).
In our reflection on this passage from Hebrews, we have been pondering the phrase, ‘realities that are unseen’ in light of our desire to understand the nature of faith. We ended yesterday with the realisation that faith and love are inseparable realities and that faith itself is a loving relationship with God. As I absorbed this thought I was reminded that our God always takes the initiative in the faith-relationship and expresses his love for us – even his ‘faith’ in us – first, before we make a move towards him, and he does this in ways that make the unseen realities more see-able.
Most notably, God’s loving initiative was see-able when he sent his Son into the world. This was an historical, therefore see-able, event on one level. But I reflected further that there were people during Jesus’ lifetime who did not see. Jesus’ enemies were among those. What was lacking was that quality of love-filled faith. There were others who wanted to see, yet felt frustrated by their lack of ability to do so: the Lord’s disciple, Philip, for example, came out with the poignant words, ‘Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied’. And Jesus answered, ‘The one who sees me sees the Father’ (see John 14:8,9). I can understand Philip’s perplexity. Much later, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, surely understanding was given to Philip, as it is offered to us. With over two thousand years of Christianity to draw on, we are perhaps in an even better position than Philip was to know that Jesus himself is the proof of realities that are unseen: if we look at him with the eyes of love-filled faith the unseen Father becomes see-able.
My difficulties with the text from Hebrews began to ease further; I began to appreciate more deeply that the ‘unseen realities’ of our faith are actually not all that unseen for those with the openness that comes from faith and love. They have been given to us, they have been proved through Jesus and through the sacred texts of the New Testament that make him known to us. Therefore, our faith is a response to what God has given us first. We do not have to concoct faith out of nothing and live it in a void. Something’s offered to us by God first. It is not fully see-able through the senses but it is understood through the same capacity we have to recognise love. Faith is a response to the loving out-reach of God to us.
Let’s leave our reflection there for a day. I invite you perhaps to consider the ways in which God has offered something to you. I hope you will be back tomorrow as we continue.