I was thinking tonight how often Christians are put on the defense regarding their faith. It’s true we are to contend for the faith, and to be ready with an answer when we are asked. I have never been good at this, as a rule, I tend to shy away from confrontation, and I do not like to argue, and this is especially so when the person on the other side is articulate and eloquent, and on the offensive. Seriously, I just shut down.
When I first was confirmed in the Catholic Church, it caused a lot of questions from my Protestant friends that needed to be answered. For me, faith comes easy, once authority is established. Often my answer consisted of “I believe the Catholic Church is the authority that Christ established on the earth before he ascended to heaven, and I’m still learning all the particulars”. As I have continued to learn and grow in my faith, I have still been overwhelmed at the challenge to defend it. I’m still working all that out, but I think the fault of that lies somewhere in between my nature, and the nature of the questions hurled at me. I don’t know where to start with a vague question like “how can you believe in purgatory”? My eyes glaze over and roll back just thinking about all the information and misinformation there is about purgatory, I mean, where does one even start with that answer?
I have determined from now on, my answer will be a question, something like “what about ______ do you find hard to believe? How do you define _______, or what do you believe about it?” and go from there with my answer, addressing what I don’t believe and affirming what I do believe.
I was thinking about how we are instructed to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. And how different people are wired differently, but we all have the same command. It’s easy for me to love with my heart and soul. I am an emotion-driven believer. That doesn’t mean I don’t engage my mind, but that it doesn’t come as naturally to me to do so, as emotions do. But I am still instructed to love the Lord with my mind, and so knowledge is important in a proper defense of the faith. As I’ve grown and learned, I have tried to follow the advice given in 2 Peter 1:5-11
…support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
A list! I love lists!
When I first read this passage, I thought faith was the foundation, and onto our faith we add goodness supported with knowledge, and so on…but the more I look at it, I believe I read it in the wrong order…love is the foundation, and love supports mutual affection, which supports godliness, which supports endurance, which supports self control, which supports knowledge, which supports goodness which supports faith.
Love is first…then all the other things are added on and should be increasing in us, building our faith. As long as they are, we are effective and fruitful in the KNOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ. This line of thinking reminds me of 1 Cor. 13…where without love, I am nothing.
I love the next part of this passage. Peter basically says, “I know you know this, and are already established in the truth, but this is so important, I’m going to keep reminding you of it anyway.” I think we should be reminding each other as well, this is important. Love, mutual affection, godliness, endurance, self control, knowledge, and goodness need to be increasing in us while we are growing in our faith, in truth.