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Faith Questions

7 Beloved,  let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love….12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. — I John 4:7-8,12

How can I be sure that there is a God? And how can I be sure of his love? I have wrestled with these sorts of questions since I was a student back in the sixties. In college I took every philosophy class I could and read the classic texts arguing for God’s existence. I even took a class called “Epistemology” that dealt with “how we know what we know.” I finished the class more confused than when I began! I left that semester appreciating the words of the Roman philosopher, Cicero, that “There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher hasn’t said it.”

There was another young student back in the 60’s who wrestled with similar questions. In the spring of 1962, Alfred Corn was sitting in an English class, at Emory University, listening to guest lectures by the great fiction writer and Christian, Flannery O’Connor. Too shy to ask O’Connor about his faith questions, Alfred wrote her a letter.

We have O’Connor’s reply to Alfred Corn, in the book, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor. In O’Connor’s letter, she drew upon a wide  knowledge of Christian faith and spirituality and advised Alfred to “Give alms”, and then urged him, “Don’t get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way.”

I wonder if it is possible that in the act of giving alms or giving ourselves that we can break through the tangles of such intellectual difficulties? John’s Gospel seems to say as much. In today’s text the Apostle John urges readers to “love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Maybe it’s not another book that our faith needs right now. Maybe what our faith most needs is to reach out to a hurting neighbor, forgive a wrong, give food to the hungry, mentor a young person, serve in a homeless shelter, or tell Good News to a prisoner.

The Apostle John goes on to remind that “no one has ever seen God. That’s true, we’ve never seen God! We’ve looked for him! However, John says, “if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

Isn’t that’s precisely how God’s presence becomes real to us? Isn’t that how his love reaches home to us? – “if we love one another.”

Grace and Peace, Tim Smith

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