Archive for ◊ October, 2015 ◊

• Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Posted by Gretchen    Encore Blog

For years I have been asked about the difference between religion and faith and I have never felt I have had a satisfactory answer. But the other day, I found a pretty great one: “In religion, people tell you what to believe. In faith, you figure it out for yourself.” (Tom Ehrich)

Religion is that thing which gives us a framework for sorting out our ideas about and our experiences of the divine. Religion gives us sacred words to describe spiritual experience. It relates our own very personal encounters with God to the historical teachings and stories found in scripture and the doctrines and rituals of our faith tradition. Religion gives us the context of a community in which to share our faith and learn from other people sharing theirs.

Faith is that thing some of us learned in childhood from adults who trusted God, who found strength in adversity, and who consistently taught us what they believed. Faith is also that thing inside many of us that we always kind of knew was there, but there was no one there to provide an example or give us ideas about God until we grew older. In either case, faith is that thing which grows inside us slowly, often without our even noticing it, until a profound event forces us to lean on it and thereby discover it is there.

Faith grows in as many different ways as there are individuals, and yet, the role of other people in teaching us, showing us, loving us is an ever-present part each faith story. We need each other to help us understand what faith is when we feel it; to give us language to describe it; to reflect back belief to us when we begin discovering we’ve developed it; to help us understand and learn how to express our experiences. The community often provided by “religion” becomes a catalyst and companion to spur us forward once that first spark of faith, trust, love, is lit by God.

Most Christians have properly sensed a difference between religiosity and faithfulness. While they are not the same thing, both are needed to help us fully realize our personal capacity for faith and to teach us how to move from faith to meaningful action.