So, let’s see, we’ve got the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the disagreement about what the sins really were (you’ll not be surprised that I do not buy the sexual argument), or Jesus doing several miracles, concluding with Luke 7:50: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Think I’ll take the easier one and talk about faith. (Best Foghorn Leghorn voice: That’s a joke, son.)
Why do some people believe in God and some don’t? It’s a question that rattles the rational mind.
Smart, learned folks with IQs higher than the national debt scoff at the notion of a God, any God.
Smart, learned folks with IQs higher than the national debt profess adherence to Islam or some other faith.
Smart, learned folks with IQs higher than the national debt profess their belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (who are the all the same to us Trinitarians).
You get the idea.
So what’s a semi-intelligent, semi-learned guy, with an IQ higher than … well, let’s not go there … to do?
Why does the woman in the Luke story have faith that has saved her? We are never given an indication. All we know about her is this:
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37-38)
The People’s New Testament Commentary offers some expansion:
The Gospels contain three versions of this story, with Mark and Matthew having essentially the same and Luke and John each having different versions of recognizably the same event. The woman is not named in the Synoptic Gospels, but John 12 identifies her as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Post-New Testament traditions not only combined the stories into a single account, but extended it by identifying the woman as Mary Magdalene, who is then described as a harlot, though the New Testament never makes either of these identifications. [Emphasis added.] (The People’s New Testament Commentary, Boring and Craddock, © 2004, Westminster John Knox Press, page 206.)
So, in other words, in what sounds to me like an attempt to provide explanation, “Tradition” has taken three stories, conflated them into one, added a little bit around the edges and concluded that Luke’s woman “sinner” had faith because she had witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. And, oh by the way, she was a prostitute to boot.
Isn’t it interesting how the literalists will put up with this kind of interpretation, but dismiss another interpretation which argues that Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was not sexual, but was being unwelcoming? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Well anyway, Luke’s sinful woman had faith, that much we know. But still, I ask, why?
As one who has read and thought and pondered this question on many fronts, I have come to this conclusion (which is hardly original, hardly unorthodox and is biblical — although some will argue with its implications): We have faith because God gives it to us, not because we choose it.
To argue that we have to “accept” Christ, or somehow make a decision frankly flies in the face of much of the Bible.
To suggest that any one of us humans has to “save souls” or “bring people to Christ” approaches heresy, frankly. We do not have that power, either on our own or other’s behalf.
Just have faith — which you get from God — and you will be saved.
(OK, now I know some will want more. For example, why does God chose to give some faith and not others? For that, I really have no answer, but rely on 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
(I’m sure, also there will be more to be said down the road.)
Grace and peace.