Faith, Love, Hope… these things seem to be in short supply lately.
Instead of hope, we regularly witness fear: fear of the economy, fear of other nations, fear of the weather, fear of politics, fear of death. Perhaps we ourselves have participated in this fear, with lives which are filled with worry, doubt, and insecurity.
Instead of love, we regularly observe hate: political parties hating one another, religious factions hating each other, gangs hating each other, school children hating each other. Violence, riots, shootings, and the like are all bitter fruits of this lack of love for one another. The media, including social media, is full of evidence concerning a lack of empathy, kindness and understanding within our society, and even our world. Again, perhaps we ourselves have participated in the rancor and backbiting we see all around us.
Instead of faith, we observe materialism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism, and a general lack of any true spirituality. Religion is seen as a social construct, fit for forming just another tribe of like-individuals, or else as an obstruction on the road to building a better world. But in truth, one could argue that it is the lack of faith which is leading to all the other problems we see in the world around us today.
With God, Love is the chief motivator in His dealings with man. God is love (cf. John 4:8-9); and that which He does for us is done out of love. God so loved the world, He sent His only-begotten Son. (John 3:16)
With man, we are trying to learn to love like God, and love is the highest calling we have, the greatest cornerstone of the Christian’s religion (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13); but love is not where we start. We must start with faith: specifically, faith in God. Starting with this foundation of faith, we can then start to build a strong spiritual structure, adding on virtue, and knowledge, and self-control, and faithfulness, and godliness, and affectionate-brotherly love, and then finally the giving-love that God is showing to us. (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-7). But it all starts with faith.
Men who don’t have faith in God are going to seek something to try to anchor their lives to. They might opt for politics, or science, or government, or family, or money, or pleasure, or a quasi-spirituality; but they are going to seek for something to fill that hole within them which hungers after faith. Yet, all these other substitutes are going to fall short. They do fall short. And when we try to replace a genuine faith in God with something else, what we are going to end up with is what we now see in the world around us: a mess. Some might not want to believe this, but it is hard to argue with the evidence.
So how do we fix it? How do we increase our faith?
God provides us an answer in His word, if we will listen: “So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
One can point to many “markers” on the road that leads us away from God, and away from faith: removal of prayer, legalization of abortion, broken marriages, unwed mothers, increased drug use, and the like. Yet, at the very beginning of it all, there was a turning away, at some point, from the word of God.
How can we find happiness and peace? Again, the Bible tells us, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand on the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
Do we want a better society? The solution is to go back to the Bible, read it, learn it, and then start living it. There is no substitution, no short-cut we can take to build a better community and a better world. We need more faith in our lives, and that means we need more of God’s word. We need to be reading it and learning it. We need to let it be the guide in our day to day lives.
None of us can force our neighbors to spend more time in God’s word, learning it and building up their faith, but we can each begin with ourselves. We can each take the time to learn what God wants to teach us, and learning it, we can each start living it and sharing it. If we want a better world, we have to be the ones to decide to better ourselves.
There are no other lasting solutions to our problems. Faith is the key, and God has already given us the answers we need.
If you would like to learn God’s word, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.