Benny Nalkara, CMI
“Isn’t the obedience of faith a mere slavery? “Is there a place for logic in faith?” “Is not faith without reasoning a blind one?” The faithful are often confronted and confused by such questions in daily life. Often obedience of faith is misunderstood or misinterpreted as the slavish and submissive attitude in life especially in authority and power. But in reality, the obedience of faith is not something resulting out of helplessness or weakness. On the contrary it is sustained by mind’s soberest reasoning and heart’s warmest passion.
We encounter in the Bible stories of concrete men and women, summoned, often peremptorily, to the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26). Abraham, the father of faith stands before us as the monumental figure of such an obedience of faith. In his life we find the obedience of faith that
springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without. The classical definition of faith in the Bible is found in the Letter to the Hebrews: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Assurance and conviction should be the warp and woof of the life of faith of a believer. In the life of Abraham we find him as a person who was led by this assurance and conviction which made him have a personal and total commitment to God.
The faith of Abraham (Gen 15:6) is depicted by the Hebrew wordheemin. The wordheemin coming from ‘mn, means “to be firm and secure.” The hiphil (expresses causative action in active voice) form of this verb means “to make oneself rm and secure” in someone. In the context of the humanly impossible things promised to Abraham by God, he made himself rm and strong in God. In the different testing occasions of his life Abraham trusted in God and entrusted his life to Him. He expressed his obedience of faith by hoping against hope when he received the call from God to leave his homeland and when he believed God’s words that he would father a child in his old age from his sterile wife Sarah. His readiness to sacrifice his only son as per the order of God was such the sublime act of obedience of faith in his life. But then, the question arises: what logic prompted him to abide by God’s order to offer his son? It is not the logic of reasoning, but the logic of faith! The Moriah Episode is a perfect example where logic of faith works as the basis of obedience. The logic of faith is not the thinking that “I can” and “I cannot,” but it is the conviction that God has a reason and “He can.” This logic made him say, “God will provide” (Gen 22:8).
The obedience of faith can also be a rational reaction to God in a religious person. We should realize that the faith of Abraham was not always characterized by a “thy will be done” attitude without reasoning. There was also a space for intelligence and reasoning in that. Abraham clearly expresses it in a special way when he hears about God’s plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinfulness (Gen 18-19). The father of the faithful questions the justice and judgment of God and argues for the sinners! Abraham, who knew that he might be punished for such an intervention appeals for mercy. The reason behind his argument was that though God is just, He cannot act without mercy. This reasoning might have been originated from Abraham’s faith experience in God. He believed in a God, who was merciful and benevolent. Since the same God had chosen him to be the father of the nations, he realized that he should show the responsibility of caring for them, his own fellow brethren with mercy and compassion. Abraham was not taking the side of God who had the plan to destroy the wicked, but he stood for the fallen ones before God with the argument for mercy. When mercy is the face of God, Abraham’s demand before God was to reveal that face to the people. Abraham, the faithful and just man was ready to take up risk for others and to feel for them.
Abraham as a faithful servant of God was not reactive, but pro-active in his faith. Only when a faithful person is ready to stand for others even at the risk of sufferings, his or her faith becomes a pro-active one. The obedience of faith is a pro-active stance of life before God and for others. This Abrahamic model of obedience of faith can be a guiding light in our daily life where the illusion of self-sufficiency and the growing selfishness make us often arrogant and egoistic.