Faith can be so impersonal

Faith can seem like a commodity we trade in for goodies in return. What’s the first thing that comes to mind, for instance, when Romans 5:1 says we are “justified by faith”? To some Christians it’s a direct trade: Have faith, get justification. In the great market of heaven one can buy salvation by turning up with a wallet load of faith. Hand over your ticket with faith stamped on it, and your entry into heaven is guaranteed.

It’s like going to a restaurant knowing the restaurant is obliged to serve you a nice meal because you’ll be paying for it. So you sit down, order your meal, eat your fill, pay your cash, leave the restaurant and go home, without any personal contact whatsoever with the chef who cooked your meal, and no relationship with him even necessary. It was a lovely meal, stamped with the chef’s personal touch and skill, but none of that entered the picture. It became a simple, cold transaction instead: Have money, get fed, go home warm and filled.

That was Job’s life too, a simple and rather cold transaction: He obeyed God and God churned out the blessings. And life could have continued that way, with Job choosing God as his favourite restaurant and God, the chef, coming up with fantastic meals for his favourite customer, but never any actual contact between them. Job had no clue what the chef was like because he’d never met him. There was no need to meet the chef and get to know him, though, because the chef kept feeding Job anyway.

But then things turned horribly sour. Suddenly, Job was served a meal with maggots. Well, into the kitchen he shot to have serious words with the chef, and that’s when, for the first time, Job saw him. The chef was surrounded by steaming plates of food in various stages of development. He was singing to himself, his concentration totally fixed on the plate in front of him. The kitchen was a marvel of creativity, organization and love. And that’s when the chef raised his eyes to Job and said, “Now do you see?” Could Job now see how personal it all was, that every plate was a work of art, and at every step in its design and mix of flavours was the love and skill of a genius?

And yes, Job did see. He saw how sterile and mercenary his relationship with God had been, of cold trading his faith for goodies in return. But that wasn’t how it was from God’s point of view. For God it was all personal, and so was it now for Job.

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