The [Hebrew] root ’mn [that is the normal word for ‘to believe’] embraces… the meanings loyalty, to trust, entrust oneself, take one’s stand on something, believe in something; thus faith in God appears as a holding on to God through which man gains a firm hold for his life. Faith is thereby defined as taking up a position, as taking a stand trustfully on the ground of the word of God.”
Introduction to Christianity, 39
Reflection – Well, another year of faith post! The Hebrew root which yields words like faith, faithfulness, belief, to believe, is also the root that yields the word ‘truth’ – emet. And, oh yes, the word 'Amen'. It is fundamentally a matter of something being solid, sound, firm.
The Hebrew language, and the people who created it and were created by it, is a deeply non-abstract, concrete, practical language. All Hebrew words are rooted in intensely concrete physical realities; paradoxically (unless you’re a poet and know how these things work) this also makes Hebrew a deeply poetic language, as the concrete words are stretched and extended into all manner of symbolic and metaphorical senses.
So faith is about deciding that something is solid, firm. Truth is not some up in the air abstraction about the world that has no bearing on action; if something is true, you can base your course of action on it. And faith is a decision that something is true, based on the solidity, the firmness, the reliability of the one telling you that thing.
‘Taking a stand trustfully on the ground of the word of God’ – yep, that’s it, basically. But this word of God calls us into direct action. ‘If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn and offer them the other cheek.’ Good solid advice for life, right? Right? Anyone? ‘Give to whoever asks, and lend without hope of repayment.’ Now that’s how to be a success in life, eh?
Faith says yes to that. Faith decides that God, speaking through Jesus the Christ, knows better than we do what a good life is, what it means to be a success. And so faith says, ‘Well, Lord, I will try… but I think you’re going to need to help me here, because this sounds a bit hard!’ And the Word assures us, ‘I will be will you always, yes to the end of time.’
And so we go through life. Constantly choosing, or at any rate invited to choose, to put our trust in the word of God and act on it. To do what the Gospel says. Hey – here’s an idea for the Year of Faith! Go through the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) and just take the little individual bits of it, maybe a new one every two weeks, to specifically put into practice (turn the other cheek… let your yes be yes… go the extra mile… love your enemies and pray or those who persecute you). Do it as a simple exercise of the obedience of faith. This is what Jesus tells us is a solid, firm, trustworthy way to live, and we choose to believe that Jesus is telling us the truth.
That’s what faith is; that is the real Amen to God and to Jesus.