When We Throw Our Coats

I sat down the other night with the full intention of studying history. I had an article due in class the next day, I had a nice new pen and empty notebook, I had a quiet room in the union all to myself. And then I had a thought.

Not a history thought, though, not in the least. See, I’ve been changing the way I do life during the last few weeks. Without going into details, I’ve had a few situations test parts of my theology that I’ve always been most vocal about. Events that have forced me to decide if I simply believed that certain principles and promises of God played nice on paper–or if they were rules I wanted to stake my life on, requirements I would keep because I actually believed in the consequences involved.

The thought, then, was this: To have great faith means to give what hurts greatly.

And too often we miss that. We isolate our faith as simply belief–we wipe our memories clean of verses that denounce faith without action. To have faith has become a mind game for Christians, a threshold of “I do believe” that we seem to think must be reached.

But we’re wrong.

The faith we are called to does not support itself on thoughts, and it is teetering dangerously on the empty words we love to prop beneath it. When the rich young ruler approaches Jesus about what he must do for eternal life, he is given an answer that shows the step we all seem to have missed: the relativity of God.

“You lack one thing. Go and sell all that you have…” God is not ignorant, ladies and gentlemen, and He certainly is not blind. Jesus responds to the widow’s two mites because of their relative value, and He calls this ruler to match that gift within the framework of his own world. “Give ALL, and follow me.” Make no mistake, faith is an investment–an investment of all we have, and one that requires us to rely fully on God keeping His end of the bargain.
When Elijah dumps 12 barrels of water onto an altar, after 42 months of drought, the stakes could not have been higher. “Here is what we lack God”- that is the cry coming from the one true representative of the Hebrew people at that time, “It’s Your turn.”

One of my favorite stories of Jesus comes from the book of Mark. Hearing that the Master, the Healer, was coming his way, a blind man began to fervently shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!!” The crowd’s warnings had no effect on the man–here, finally, was the One person who opened blind eyes and gave life back to those who sat in darkness. “Jesus!! Son of David! Have mercy on me!!” Suddenly, the message is relayed that Christ is calling him.

50 And throwing off his cloak, he ran to Jesus.
52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”

Please, do not miss this. The one possession that this man had- the cloak that, if all else was lost, could be given in pledge by Israel’s poorest citizens, is what this blind man throws off first. Here is faith. If he is wrong, if Jesus can not heal him, then all is lost- without sight his cloak can never be recovered. The faith Christ refers to is not the words Bartimaeus speaks–it is the “all” that he gives.

When Abraham ties his son Isaac to the altar, when he raises the knife with the full intention of offering the only hope of fulfilling God’s own promise to him–that is when his faith was counted to him as righteousness. What hurts the very most, what we feel is all we have left in this world–that is what God requires us to trust Him with, to give up with faith in His love.

And that is what He has done Himself.

If faith is the giving up of what we value most, if it is the investing of what we hold closest--then the Father’s heart has trumped us all. The faith shown by the gift of His only Son–the Master of the vineyard sending his Son to the workers, the parallel of Abraham bringing Isaac to Moriah–that is the love and hope and faith that God has shown to and in us. What a thought- that God hopes in us, that God believes in us, that God invests in us!

For God so loved the world, for God so had faith in His creation– that He gave what hurt the most.

Slowly but surely, I’m finding a way to live like I believe, to give like I believe, to have faith like I believe.

Because I actually do.


April 2018
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