On the Gospel of Luke (17:5-19)
Without a doubt this gospel passage does appear to be quite cryptic and confusing. We are told by Jesus ‘were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you”. Then we are given an example of a slave being ordered by his master to do something, and not receiving any praise for carrying out the orders given to him. What on earth has the gift of faith to do with the expectation of a master from his slave? What on earth is Jesus trying to say to us today?
I think that Jesus is trying to encourage us, his faithful, to behave as we ought to, to behave as his followers are expected to behave. A master does not praise his slave when he follows his orders.
When we behave as Christians ought to, when we are patient, kind, helpful, good humoured and people complement us for it, we should be able to reply ‘I am a Christian, this is what a Christian does’. This is the basic level of behaviour one ought to be able to expect of a Christian.
What then of faith? As Christians we are to have faith, faith that can up root a tree, or move a mountain. This is indeed part of being a Christian, to have faith in spite of doubt, to have joy in spite of sorrows and patience in spite of anger. The faith that can up root a tree is the same faith that can enable someone to continue living when they lose loved ones to violence or suicide. It is the same faith that enables someone to keep smiling when they have lost their job and do not know how the mortgage will be paid. It is the same faith that in a world of hate, where men can set fire to a house with an eleven year old girl inside, can still say ‘God is love’.
For many people this level of faith seems impossible, for some it seems easy until some disaster happens in their lives. Yet this type of faith and trust is the essence of Christian faith, and is the ‘calling card’ of a Christian.