Freedom of a Christian Part 3: Faith of the Heart

It’s easy to get stuck in our heads. If a problem comes up, we spend a lot of time and energy dwelling on it. If we have an issue with another person, we might even role play entire conversations with them during long car rides. Sometimes these conversations are helpful. The words we say help us gather our thoughts and plot a plan of action. But if these pretend conversations are connected to a deep feeling of anxiety, we might end up lost in our own heads. We end up overthinking the situation. We are consumed by thoughts and end up lost in inaction. Your mind is powerful, complex, and unique. But even a healthy mind can be caught in a feedback loop that traps it.

I like how Martin Luther in our selection from The Freedom of a Christian talks about “faith of the heart.” We tend to talk and imagine that faith is mostly in our minds. We need to “believe” certain ideas and accept a certain vision of reality. Belief is about what you choose to accept or say yes to. This kind of faith feels very much like something we might learn in school. We need teachers and classes to grow in our faith and, hopefully, a few special graduation events a long the way. This kind of faith is a faith of the mind.

But Luther doesn’t experience faith in this way. For him, faith is the center of his reality. In scripture, the heart was always the place where faith lived and breathed. And in ancient times, the heart was the center of everything about us. The heart was where thoughts were created and where the soul lived. The heart was the center of what made a person who they were. For Luther, our faith isn’t about what we believe. Our faith is really about what is the center of who we are. Faith isn’t something only located in our head. Faith is part of everything that makes us who we are.

This kind of faith is a faith that can live through those moments when we lose ourselves in our head. It’s a faith that can handle those moments in our lives when doubt is all we have. A faith that is at the core of who we are is faith that we can rediscover when we haven’t felt Jesus in our life for awhile. This kind of faith is something we cannot earn or create on our own. It’s a deep faith that only God can give. And God grants us this faith through baptism, worship, communion, and daily interactions with the Holy Spirit. We might not sense God in our life. But God continues to grant us the faith we need to know that we are God’s. And this kind of faith, this faith of the heart, is the only faith that can help us live through every part of our lives.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings/other readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Third Sunday in Lent, 2/25/2018.