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To Grow in Faith, We Need Freedom to Fail

Photo: AJ Yorio Growing up in a digital world makes our commitments continually reversible. Don’t like something posted online about yourself? Just erase it or edit it. Regret the purchasing decision you just made? Just cancel it. Don’t like your looks? Get plastic surgery. But this instant…
By sethbarnes

Photo: AJ Yorio

Growing up in a digital world makes our commitments continually reversible. Don’t like something posted online about yourself? Just erase it or edit it. Regret the purchasing decision you just made? Just cancel it. Don’t like your looks? Get plastic surgery.

But this instant reversibility doesn’t work in the spiritual realm. All through the Bible we see that God asks us to trust him and commit to him, to have faith in him. Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Jesus was constantly coaching his disciples, “Oh ye of little faith!”

This can feel like pressure, like legalism. And almost nobody under 25 likes the legalism of old religion. But there is a new kind of legalism that says, “You can’t work out your faith if it has the potential to hurt people.”

Faith is messy

The problem is that faith is messy. Faith is not certainty, it is risky and has the potential to hurt people. It can feel scary, like climbing a rickety ladder that might slip. Faith is a wobbly thing to stand on in a culture of no mistakes allowed. Because of the new ethic of perfectionism, young people are losing their capacity for faith.

It helps to think of faith in terms of relationship. When someone has faith in us, we feel trusted and often, we feel closer to them. But faith always comes wrapped in the wrapping paper of messiness. When you try something for the first time, the odds of failure are great.

Short missional journeys were one of Jesus’ primary means for activating faith. They placed his disciples in strange places where they were dependent on God to show up and were exposed to adversity. Before he sent them, Jesus warned his disciples that there would be mistakes and problems along the way. He told them they’d be flogged, prosecuted, and put to death. (Matt. 10)

Why the pain?

Why would Jesus subject his disciples to all that pain? Furthermore, think about the pain they must have been inflicting if that was the response they aroused! When Jesus preached, people sometimes wanted to kill him on the spot. And he was asking his disciples to do the same thing. He was asking them to go start a ruckus. Not a politically correct approach to faith.

Somehow the potential of helping people who needed help was worth the risk of making mistakes along the way. The potential to pray for healing for those who were sick was worth the negative fallout. The potential to trust God more to show up at the last second made the inevitable slip-ups worthwhile.

What if God was more interested in his children learning to walk spiritually than he was in the potential for them to fall down along the way?

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