Yesterday I wrote about a person who is experiencing a “that lack of faith” and finding that experience called into question. I wondered what is really going on when someone claims to experience “a lack of faith.”

I want to suggest that people who profess a “lack of faith” do not really have no faith. They experience mystery, wonder, awe, beauty, goodness, and truth. They are committed to the invisible qualities of compassion, kindness, peace, honesty, and authenticity. They do experience a hidden mysterious dimension to life.

But, people who profess a “lack of faith” probably do not find in formal institutional religion anything that connects to their awareness of the invisible realities they experience. They do not relate to the complicated, sometimes bewildering array of dogmas that seem to be attached to religious conviction. They do not accept many of the regressive social agendas that are often associated with formal religious expressions. They reject the hypocrisy and judgementalism that seem so often to be hallmarks of the religious enterprise. So, people who identify themselves as having a “lack of faith” do not actually lack faith; they lack a commitment to many of the institutional dimensions of faith with which I also struggle.

So, what is the real difference between me and the person who professes a “lack of faith”?

In many ways we are quite similar. We share many values. We love our children, and in my case grandchildren, to distraction.  We long for a world of peace, compassion, and kindness. We want to find ways for the human community to live together with greater gentleness. We desire to grow in our ability to live as authentic, thoughtful human beings.

But there are at least three things that distinguish me from the person who claims to experience a “lack of faith.”

As a person who identifies himself as a Christian, I see, perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus, those hidden invisible qualities of love, truth, beauty, and goodness that the “lack of faith” person and I both seek to honour. I believe that, when I look at Jesus, I see the perfect embodiment of what it means to be most deeply human. And, I believe that contemplating this vision, challenges me to become more fully the person I was created to be.

But, my faith goes beyond merely seeing in Jesus a model of what it means to be human. I also believe that in Christ I encounter the power to live more fully those invisible realities that represent the richest and deepest realities of true personhood. I believe Christ is the power of love and goodness at work in the world and in my life. I believe that, the more I open myself to that power, the more loving and compassionate I will be.

Third, I believe that being in community and worship with other people who share this experience of love, helps me open to  that experience. My awareness of the presence and power of the invisible force of love and goodness I see in Jesus is enriched by my connection to people who share my commitment to this reality. Thus my choice to share a communal expression of love and peace in the community of church causes my life to be more fully conformed to these realities.

I need other people in my life who support and challenge my life of faith. I need people who share a vision of what it means to live deeply and authentically the inner journey of mystery and beauty that I believe is the highest human calling.

So, as difficult as I often find it, I feel compelled to join my individual journey to the individual journeys of other people. My life is enriched when I share with people who are attempting to open to the hidden invisible power of love and life that I believe is most profoundly at work when we gather intending to open our hearts to one another and to the invisible mystery of life.

My habit of joining with other people to nurture my awareness of God, makes it obvious that I am trying to be a person “of faith.” The failure to find this exercise important or meaningful, does not necessarily indicate that someone else has a “lack of faith.”