When was the last time you watched the defense win the game? Not just put on a really good defense to assist the offense. But literally win the game. I mean, when the offense just couldn’t score. (Assuming, of course, that the other team didn’t score against themselves). Right. You haven’t. Because it’s not possible. Because the best that a good defense can do is tie the game.
It’s no different when we go around trying to defend our faith. We’re playing defense and wasting our time. Faith doesn’t need to be defended. Faith requires good offense, something I rarely see. Because if I told you that I believe in you. That I have faith in you. You’ll come through on your promise. I know your heart. You wouldn’t let me down. If I told you this and I meant it, then it would be a waste of my time to defend your heart, your dependability. I would only have to entertain this futile task if I really didn’t believe it and needed to assure myself that it’s really true.
But, say I didn’t really know you. Maybe someone told me about you. They told me that you were really dependable. A trustworthy sort. And say this person told me that I could trust you, but I didn’t really know for sure. I just didn’t know for myself. But I trusted the person who told me about you. They never let me down. And so, on their word, I put my faith in you. I say that I believe you will come through on your promise to me—a person you don’t know. But say I don’t see anything. It seems like nothing is happening. Like you’re not upholding your end of the bargain. So I start telling myself that I can believe in you. Because my friend said that I could. And I trust them. I think. Should I trust them? Well they’ve never let me down. So they must be trustworthy. And so must you. But how can I know? I’m counting on you, but I don’t know you. And I don’t know if I can trust you. But I have to because if I don’t, then what? If I don’t have faith in you then I have nothing. An empty promise that goes unfulfilled. It’s an ugly thought, so I constantly reassure myself that I have faith in you and you will come through.
A lot is riding on this though. I’ve told people that I have faith in you. That you will deliver on your promise to me, a stranger. I’ve really put myself out there. You know, placing my trust in you. And so if you don’t come through, then I’m going to look like an idiot. A fool. And I don’t like looking like an idiot. So you have to come through. Whether you do or not. They can never know. And I begin to get defensive. To defend my faith in you. Whenever someone asks me about it, I respond condescendingly. Perhaps harshly. Judgmentally. Because I am insecure in my faith in you. And I know that I really shouldn’t have placed my faith in someone I don’t know—whose heart I can’t vouch for with certainty. But I have and I can’t look silly. So I am proud and loud and I feign confidence except it comes off as condescension. I suddenly have to know it all because if I don’t then I have nothing. Just an empty promise that goes unfulfilled and a foolish reputation.
So if I told you that you should live a certain way, say certain things, be careful not to practice certain evil things… If I told you that Jesus loves you BUT… If I judged you because of the way you were living. If I was proud and loud and condescending… Then it would be because I don’t really know my Father’s heart. I was just told about his heart by someone I knew. Someone I trusted. And they told me all about him. All about his anger. His rules. All about the ways in which I can earn his love. That I am a sinner. That he only loves those who love him in return. And they told me about heaven and hell. And that you have to do x, y, and z to go to heaven, otherwise he’ll damn you to hell. So not wanting to go to an awful place called hell, I chose heaven. I got “saved.” And now, I have “faith” in “Jesus.” Except I don’t really know him. All I know are the rules and doctrines, the systems of belief that my friend passed to me. So I guess really, I put my faith in religion. And when someone questions me, I am frightened. And if I see you breaking one of "the rules" then I must immediately hold you accountable. Because I wouldn't want you to go to hell. Or worse yet, I wouldn't want you to go to heaven acting the way you do when I'm working so hard to get in. So I get loud, proud and judgmental. I spout off the rules, doctrines, verses I know. I warn you about hell. All the while, I’m telling myself that I’m right. That I have faith in what I believe. Because I’m so scared of hell. Too scared to imagine the alternative. And I live my life defending what I believe in. Powerless and afraid. Hoping just to tie the game.
But when I tell you that I have faith in Jesus. That he so loved the world and died to save us. Every one of us. That in his abundantly unconditional love for us, he allows us to have the desires of our hearts even when it is destructive to us. Because we are free to choose. He brings absolute freedom. And he does not judge the world. That no matter the condition of your heart, he loves you. That there is nothing you can do to lose his love, though you don’t have to accept it. He loves to give good gifts to his children, though you don’t have to receive them. When I say this, I mean it. And if you ask me about it, I’d be so happy to share it. To share his love. Because I know his heart. I live in relationship with him. And he pours out his love on me. So why wouldn’t I give it away?
Because to be offensive with our faith, means to live out of the freedom within it. I don’t need to worry about whether Jesus loves me or you. I know that he does. And so I am free to love also. He told me to heal the sick, set the captives free. These are actions. They imply some seriously powerful offense. I’m in this game to win it. And as Rob Bell said, "LOVE WINS!"