A message from Bishop Damien Mead for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

In Christian theology, charity — or love (agäpé) — is the greatest of the three theological virtues (Faith and Hope being the other two). As I have said so many time s before the English Word “Love” sometime fails to fully convey our intention. The Love we mean here is in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God.

This Love is, we are told of the Three the greatest because it is also eternal. Faith and Hope point to the eternal but Faith will one day no longer be necessary, and Hope will be fulfilled fully. Love is endless.

Cultivating the Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, wisdom, temperance, joy, courage, faithfulness, peace, is achieved in relationship with God (and the circumstances he brings into our lives) and others.

By their very nature Christian virtues are relational; they cannot be learned in a vacuum. We learn to trust God deeper by joyfully going through the trials of life; wisdom by dealing with difficult people, courage by facing dangerous circumstances and people, faithfulness by constancy in promise keeping, patience by restraining anger and despair, and humility by serving others.

God has called us both into his body and to be salt and light in the world; he has called us into an interesting set of relationships which he uses and will always use to enable us to grow.

With God all things are possible.

Do we really believe this and what should we really understand it to mean? In the Gospels Jesus is quoted a number of times saying a variation of this “With God all things are possible”. But wherever ‘all things’ is mentioned concerning man, a qualifier of belief is added. “And, all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22) “….All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

The ‘all things’ is limited to only those items that can be believed. Jesus is saying, “If you can believe it, then it is possible.” The limitation is on our believing. Over-and-over again, the Gospels communicate a simple concept – There are no limitations with God, and the limitations that man received in the Fall are neutralised by his faith in God.

In effect, faith in the ‘God of no limitations’ takes away the limitations of man. This is not elevating man, it is elevating the blessing of God upon man. The source of the power is not man but rather faith in God – “If you can believe it, it will happen.” God is saying, “I have no limitations, if you can believe in me, I can do it.”

I have met people who have beaten themselves up because they feel they have lacked sufficient faith — and that therefore this is why a particular thing hasn’t happened. Someone hasn’t been healed or they haven’t gained or achieved something. But this isn’t what we are talking about.

There are no inconsistencies in God, no fallibility, no contradictions. We are told in St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians today that his earnest prayer for all those who are following Christ is to have us strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. That Christ may thereby dwell in our hearts by faith and that we may be rooted and grounded in love so that we can “comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”

Jesus did not say, “It is possible to believe for all things,” but rather, He said, “All things that are believed are possible.” There is a huge difference between the two wordings. The inclusiveness is determined not by a definition of ‘all things’, but rather on the extent of our possible faith. This makes sense if you understand that faith in God is based solely on items granted to us by His word. The ‘all things’ are determined by the ‘things’ promised in His word.

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