“Faith is having enough knowledge to have an understanding of God, but not the experience to fully understand Him.” There are many definitions of faith from practical to scholastic. This definition is one that a friend of mine came up with when we were in our confirmation class as she was explaining faith. There is a certain truth that comes from being a child.
At 13 we were just coming to realize that there was a world beyond our homes, and that not everyone had the same life experience. It was an awesome time when we still had enough child to be in awe and wonder, but enough wisdom to understand the world a little better, yet without the contempt that came with just a few more years. Thus, you can see how this definition can come from a child at the precipice of adult life.
While some may discount this definition because of the age of the one who said it, it does not make it any less relevant. In fact, as I said before, this is a definition I think about often. In the letters of John, especially the first, the author refers to his audience as children. Now many may have been chronologically children, but most likely the author is referring to their state of faith maturity. Most likely they were newer converts trying to discover and understand the basics of being a Christian.
As the pericope states to the reader that we have to remember that we are very much like children when it comes to faith, since all of life has yet to be revealed to us. As Paul might chime in “For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1Co 13:9-11 NRS). The writer of 1 John says “what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
Though even though we have a lot to learn and grow from, there are some very real basics to how we choose to live our lives. This is not too dissimilar from the rules that children live by to keep them safe; these rules are to help us keep focused as we grow in faith. The biggest difference is the fact that we are born children but at a point society (despite our parents’ desires) claims us as adults. In faith we have a different role and reality in that we will always be children because the fullness of life is revealed not in this life, but in the next. This means that we are forever learning and growing in our faith, and though this exercise is incomplete, the more we pursue it the better understanding we have, even though completeness will elude us.
So we can boldly say that we have faith as Christians, but to say we have faith is not to claim full knowledge or even full correctness. Rather it is to make a statement that we are in a relationship pursuing a greater truth letting our knowledge and understandings guide us, but also accepting the mystery of the one experience that will elude us in this life to reveal the full knowledge of faith.
As we think towards this Sunday, think about ways in which you are still a child. Do you hold on to the awesome wonder that you did when you were young? Do you listen for and to the direction of others? Do you allow yourself to be guided, while still seeking the answer to every child’s question, Why?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen