Faithful Living in a Faithless Society
by Bethany Kaldas
When a Christian says society is ‘faithless’, they mean godless, or sinful. There is, however, a kind of faithlessness that often goes unacknowledged. A kind of faithlessness that does indeed permeate much of modern Western culture today…a faithlessness we Christians are just as susceptible to as everyone else—perhaps even more so.
To show you what I mean, I’m going to tell you about Percy Jackson. You’ve probably heard of this series of fantasy novels, but if you’re one of the people who enjoyed the series, I can all but guarantee your reaction to the movie adaptations. You might say that the movies did not at all follow the design of the original tales, that they were a betrayal to the design that the author intended, trading the wonderful, unique stories for something lesser to pander to a wider audience…I’ll stop now, but you get the idea. The movies were not faithful to the books. They tried to be something they were not, something other than what their creator had made them to be, out of fear they would not be accepted as they were. You might say, they were faithless.
It’s easy to see in movies. Perhaps too easy to miss in ourselves.
The modern Western world is full of good things—but it is also, in my opinion, a breeding ground for fake personalities. It is only in first world countries where our basic needs are thankfully provided for (for the most part), that we can become so preoccupied with the most trivial of commodities—how we appear to others.
In a world like this, it is easy to forget that how others perceive us is, strangely enough, not a matter of life or death. It has very little survival value, and in and of itself, is neutral regarding our spiritual health.
‘…For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
1 Samuel 16:7
Yet in this society, it is so easy to slip into the selves we’ve built up so that we can shine for other people. Indeed, when wandering the wilderness, it is easier to forge gods of gold than to continue following a God who does not look like what we expect. If we ourselves do not appear as expected, why should those of the wilderness not reject us?
This is faithlessness in one of its most potent and dangerous forms. A faithlessness that is ever more tragic for the Christian than for anyone else, because we know not only the intended design, but the Designer, too.
I would dare to say, that compared to our other conceptions of faithlessness—those of disbelief or sinfulness—this kind is far more devastating to the Christian.
‘As long as we ourselves are real, as long as we are truly ourselves, God can be present and can do something with us. But the moment we try to be what we are not, there is nothing left to say or have; we become a fictitious personality, an unreal presence, and this unreal presence cannot be approached by God.’ Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray
That’s the bottom line. If you are not faithful to yourself—to the person God made you—if you live your life as a lie to please others, even if they are your fellow Christians—you can never meet God. An unreal person cannot commune with the real God.
This notion is presented perfectly in C. S. Lewis’ novel, Till We Have Faces. The novel asks the question we must ask ourselves:
‘How can we meet [God] face to face till we have faces?’
We must recognise that although the world may never be satisfied with who we really are, though it may only want to look at masks forged of gold, God wants to meet us face to face. He will settle for nothing less.
And when we do muster the courage to be faithful to who we were made to be, when we finally cast away the false self we’ve created, we see the person that God created, the person we were so frightened of setting free. We stand in the light of our Creator, fully real, fully exposed—and see what we truly are. And what will we say?
‘I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvellous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.’