Thinking Anew – Faith is a slippery rock
Jesus’ choice of Peter as the “rock” of faith is a great comfort for those of us whose journey of faith is more like an ice-rink than a footpath
Rock has many personalities. It simply depends on what poet you happen to be reading at the time. In our stories rock occupies all of the extremes. This inanimate and cold thing is the foundation of our lively and warm homes. It typifies dependability, permanence, solidness and reliability. Equally it can be unstable, shaky, unpredictable and dangerous. Rock has sunk as many ships as it has anchored.
Among the many attributes that we assign to rock one is particularly good for faith. Faith is a slippery rock. When lived fully, faith slides between reason and good things that defy reason. It tries to give meaning to it all. Anybody not sliding is dogmatic and missing out on a great glory of being alive – struggling with faith.
Jesus’ choice of Peter as the “rock” of faith is a great comfort for those of us whose journey of faith is more like an ice-rink than a footpath. Peter’s rocky faith is the tale of a man who would deny his friend one day and rush across the surface of a lake to see him a few days later. Peter’s faith slid between the two extremes – it never actually lodged at either of them.
Peter’s humanity is the rock on which Jesus founded faith, and Peter was all too human. There are people who focus on the rock of faith for its solidness and others who reject faith for its shakiness. Both overlook the fact that faith is an engagement, not a position. Faith is the ability to try to make sense of reality. We all try to understand our world and most of us realise that it is neither a world of pure scientific fact not a world of pure superstitious magic.
For the Christian, every person is made in the image and likeness of God. Traditionally we have understood that that image and likeness is not physical. We are like God because we can think for ourselves and make our own decisions. In the encounter with life, thought and choice are everything. We are even smart enough to recognise our limitations if we choose to do so. Faith sends an invitation to find good in the things we meet along the way. That is why Peter is such a wonderful example of Christian faith. He didn’t always get everything right but he always looked for the answer that was good.
Faith is not simply a belief that God does or does not exist. Faith is how we interpret and address the world around us in accordance with that belief. Christian faith suggests that life has a benign and eternal meaning.
In our interactions we are asked to constantly choose between something that is probably good and something that might not be so good. Few choices and decisions are simple and fewer still are easy.
Most of us share Peter’s unpretentious intelligence and human frailty. Like Peter, we do not always get it right.
Shortfalls of knowledge and absence of backbone are not the only challenges that distract faith. There are so many factors to consider. We often have to choose something because it seems to be the best option or the least damaging one. It is like pretending you don’t know somebody to save your own skin. That is unacceptable in a world that puts its faith in champions, heroes, patriots and martyrs but it was perfectly acceptable for Christ.
Jesus put his faith in a man who was sensible, ordinary and loving.