Daily D – Luke 17:5
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
LUKE 17:5 (CSB)
Oliver Twist stood before a fat, healthy man and said, “Please, Sir, I want some more.” Where better to go when you are hungry than to a fat, healthy man who controls who gets what at mealtime? If you are not familiar with this scene, do yourself a favor and finally get around to reading this book. The movie is good, too, but the book, of course, is superior.
Among the tight-knit group of Jesus’ closest followers, his words recorded in verses 1-4 landed like an unwelcome and unpinned hand grenade. Jesus said, “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,” (verse 3).
This sounds like three instructions for the price of one. First, “Be on your guard.” Rather than meaning something like, “Keep a close watch on your brother for any sin he might commit so that you can pounce on him and correct him,” it sounds like what Jesus might have had in mind was, “Do not initiate the sin, rebuke, repent sequence yourself.” In King James English, you might paraphrase it this way: Thou shalt not start the sin cycle.
First, do not intentionally and willfully sin. Second, when someone else does sin against you, rebuke him or her. This word in English sounds harsh. Consider that a rebuke is a reprimand. It stops hurtful or harmful behavior and redirects behavior toward more harmonious and productive ends. Ken Blanchard provides a brief masterclass on this topic in his small, but powerful book, The One-Minute Manager.
Let’s review: Do not intentionally or willfully start a sin cycle. Then, if and when someone sins against you, stop the cycle of acceleration by a firm but fair reprimand. Having reset the situation to a correct starting point, forgive the person. Forgive the person again if the person starts another sin and grievance cycle, and another, and another, and another. Reprimand and forgive, reprimand and forgive, reprimand and forgive. How long does this go on? As long as necessary.
Jesus bottom-lined this line of thinking with these precise and certain words: “you must forgive him,” (verse 4). That word “must” does not leave much wriggle room. We are to work for peace, not for victory.
It is at this point that the apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”
If we have to be nice all the time, if we have to lead with kindness, perseverance, and peace, you better up our daily dose of faith. Thirteen guys living and traveling together for days on end with all kinds of conflicts from within and without, this rule could become rather tedious.
It was at this point that Jesus completely departed from televangelist lore. He said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you,” (verse 6). They did not need more faith. They needed genuine faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus changes things. It changes us. It changes entrenched opposition. It changes lives, families, communities, and workplaces. Real faith in Jesus is powerful and effective.
Jesus used a mustard seed (tiny, tiny, tiny) and a mulberry tree (deeply, deeply rooted) as illustrations. Tiny seed-size faith can toss a mulberry tree into the sea. The mulberry of that place is said to have roots that empower it to survive for six-hundred years. That is a firmly implanted plant. Again, the point is not the size of faith, but the object. Faith is not the victory. Faith in Jesus is.
The next time you hear someone say, “If you had more faith, . . .” smile and nod and refuse to start a sin cycle. Know that what makes the difference is not the size of your faith, but the person of Jesus. Microscopic amounts of faith in Jesus reshapes lives and rebuilds worlds.
We don’t need more faith. We need more Jesus.
Who else could blow the doors off of the grave?
Who else could blow the Spirit upon a fearful gather and turn it into a joyful multitude?
Who else could turn twelve irritable men into a force for worldwide emancipation from the law of sin and death?
“Please, Sir, I want some more Jesus.”
I will place whatever measure of faith I have in Jesus.
Our Father, nothing is impossible with you including living at peace with irritable people. Nothing is impossible with you including enduring cycles of sinful behavior and resolution. Nothing is impossible with you when our focus is on you. Give us living faith for every dying moment. Give us living faith for every entrenched worldview. Give us living faith for beating back anything that would seek to rule our hearts and minds including sinful behavior that carelessly and insidiously separates us from others. Amen.
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Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. (CSB)
Isaiah 38:2, 3 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD. He said, “Please, LORD, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (CSB)
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy. (CSB)