One of the most quoted passages in Scripture is Paul’s description of the characteristics of a godly life found in his letter to the Galatian church. He calls these characteristics the “fruit of the Spirit”. The list includes- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all and wonderful and desirable attributes but one in particular seems unique from the rest. Faithfulness.
It is the one that can only be measured and assessed over a long period of time. A person who is kind, joyous, good and gentle 99% of the time may rightly be described as having these attributes, but a man who is faithful to his wife 99% of the time is a cheat. Because it requires persistence over time I think faithfulness may be the rarest of the Christian virtues and the most difficult to possess.
I fear it has also become the least valued. In out fast-food, fast-paced world we have come to want what we want and to want it now. Young people fresh out of school want honor and respect. Young politicians closer to high school age than they are to retirement age seek to be president of the United States, while other older politicians ask us to believe that they are committed to positions opposite those they espoused just a few years before. How can we know they will be faithful to their promises?
The fact that so many of the leading candidates fit one of these descriptions is evidence that we have devalued faithfulness. There is no substitute for it. While a person who has been true to his values for decades should be more trusted than someone who had frequently changed, this does not seem to matter to us anymore. This is concerning.
It is of even greater concern to me in the life of the church. As is often the case, in this regard the American church is following American culture. We seek new faces, charismatic leaders who make eloquent statements and emphatic promises. While these leaders may be good and gifted men, and while they may be kind, gentle, patient, joyful and loving, it is hard to know if they are faithful. Faithfulness can only be measured over time.
Later this week I will be speaking to a church group on the topic of faithfulness, looking into the Apostle Paul’s thoughts on the subject. It was a common theme in the letters he wrote to young pastors under his charge. The talk will be the basis of my posts in the coming few weeks as I explore what it is that Christians are to be faithful to. The answers may surprise you!
Those who are interested in hearing my talk on faithfulness can watch it live on my twitter feed this Wednesday, February 24 (@bartbarrettmd) I am scheduled to begin between 10:15 and 10:30. I am planning on uploading the message to my vimeo page later in the week.