Some people believe that faith is a very personal and private matter. In fact, they refuse to discuss it. If you try and speak with them about their faith, they get offended.
Other people see faith as a very public thing, even political. They are open and perhaps even aggressive at times. If anyone suggests that their faith is too pushy or partisan, they get offended.
Obviously there are different ideas about how to properly understand and practice faith. What does the Bible say?
Near the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he commends their faith because it is reported in the whole world. Political or not, their faith was very public and the apostle approved.
In Paul’s introduction to the Roman letter he reminded them that they were called to be saints. The word “saint” means holy. All Christians are called to live holy lives. God tells his people, “Be holy, because I am holy.”
This world is far from being holy. It is broken and sinful. Anyone who sets out to live a holy life will be pushing against the rushing tide of culture and society. It is impossible to live a life that is faithful to the gospel and remain invisible to the world.
After commending their public faith, Paul proceeded to write about his desire to visit the Roman believers. He wanted to share a spiritual gift with them so they would be strengthened in their faith. He also wanted to be encouraged by their faith.
Paul recognized that both he and the Roman believers would be stronger through Christian fellowship. He was humble enough to admit his need for their encouragement and caring enough to share his spiritual gift and encouragement with them.
A public faith will be opposed and can get battered severely in this unbelieving world. To maintain a strong public witness requires strengthening and nurturing from fellow believers, from participation in a local church. Biblical faith is practiced in fellowship, in church.
After stating his intention to visit the Romans, Paul testified that he was a debtor to all peoples, all nations. He was obligated to preach the gospel, to share the good news about God’s saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was motivated by a strong sense of personal obligation, a sense of duty. His duty was expressed by proclaiming the gospel to all peoples, but ultimately the duty was an obligation to God himself. Paul felt obligated to God because God saved him despite his terrible disobedience.
What about love? Would it not be better if love inspired Paul instead of duty? Paul clearly loved God and he loved others. His passion and work are reminders that we should not think of love and duty as disconnected, as if they cannot work in harmony.
True love inspires great acts of duty. We feel a strong sense of obligation toward those whom we love, without any resentment. Jesus’ sacrifice awakens in believers an obligation born out of the deepest affection. Paul’s faith was intensely personal, between himself and God.
Our personal passion for God inspires us to seek out fellow believers and stay in fellowship with them, encouraging one another and living openly for God. As we do, the world notices. True faith is sparked by a personal passion for God, nurtured in fellowship with the local church, and noticed by the world.
May God’s love inspire us to live a world-class faith,
Brother Richard Foster