Many have debated the focus of Christian faith. Some have suggested the entire focus on “belief” in the One God of the Universe, uniquely revealed in and through Jesus from Nazareth. Others have suggested the focus is on “behaving” a certain way in the world: love God and love your neighbor as your self. Yet, still others focus on the “belonging” aspect of Christian faith—belonging to a community that helps shape us and form us into better human beings. Diana Butler Bass writes about all these through the lens of the sweeping history of Christian faith over the centuries.
I’m wondering, though, as I read our scripture, ponder God’s call on Christian life as faith in community, if this whole thing is less about belief, behavior, or belonging. I’m wondering of the Christian faith—as laid out in Paul’s writings, the gospels, and other texts from scripture, including the Hebrew scriptures—is about a shared set of values founded in and shaped by our experience of the Divine. These values are then embodied (or expressed) through our beliefs, behavior, and sense of belonging to a community that orients itself around such values.
I’m thinking about the 1st Annual Salsa Challenge the Youth Ministry Team of my church is sponsoring on May 1st. On the surface it doesn’t seem very “faith-oriented.” But when I start to unpack the event, I see the values of fellowship, fun, and food being truly embodied in that event. There is also the value of financially supporting one another as the proceeds from the event will support our Youth Ministry Fund, which helps support our youth attending the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, special events, and mission trips.
As a communities of Christian faith, what values do we seem to gather around naturally, besides the ones I list above? Are these values inherent in Christian faith as it has been handed down through the ages? Are these values present in our sacred texts, explicitly or implicitly? If we were to express our faith in terms of values, gleaned from our experience of God through the risen Christ, what might that look like in practical terms?
As this ministry year (September-May) comes to a close next month, I find my mind moving toward the new year that starts in September, and what God might be inviting us to consider or lean into. I would be interested to hear from you within the context of your community. Do you have some thoughts on this idea of a “value-focused” perspective on the Christian faith? I appreciate your pondering with me. Who knows how the Spirit will reveal herself in our imaginations!
Be of good courage, and know that you are loved!