When Paul writes of faithfulness in Galatians, what does he mean? It’s from the Greek pistis, which carries a sense of loyalty and being trustworthy when dealing with other people. How can we learn about being faithful people in spiritual terms? It may make us feel uncomfortable, because the opposite human traits are not very appealing.
My dog is extremely loyal. Her name is Cassie and she is pictured here. Every time I return to her, she comes and sits in front of me, wags her tail and looks at me expectantly. She is always there. She relies on me for her nurture and wellbeing. Interestingly, I also come to rely on her. I faithfully walk her, feed her and ensure she is safe. It is a mutual relationship, which we both benefit from. I learn about faithfulness just by looking at her. If only our human interaction was as straightforward!
Galatia, at the time of Paul’s letter, was a mixture of early Jewish Christians and another group of Christians, who had a Greco-Roman angle on their burgeoning faith. Paul was seeking to give them a united message. Who, or what, should they be faithful to? Was it their cultural norms? Was it their interpretation of the law? Was it their teachers? Or was it the teachings of Christ? In Galatians 3, Paul writes “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” He is quite clear that the person of Jesus was the key to understanding life. Paul acknowledged that there was difference and was preaching a message of unity and mutual faithfulness. In his list of the fruits of the Spirit, he gave the people of Galatia, and consequently to us, some ways to gauge how they were doing.
Faithfulness is a mindset which we show to all kinds of things. Pets is an obvious example. But we also show it to our favourite singers, we show it to our hobbies, we show it to each other at the pub, we show it to our families. But how can we show it in our mission as a church? We can show it by not giving up. We can show it by keeping on keeping on. We can meet it by being steadfast and always being there.
The opposite of faithfulness is a mindset we can sometimes be guilty of slipping into. We can be fickle and we can show disregard. The church can be guilty of seemingly only appealing to people like us or people who will understand us. This is an impoverished view of the faithfulness that God shows to us. His lavish gift of unwavering faithfulness deserves more from us.
Faithfulness is something that we can all pray for. It might be conveyed these days in terms of stickability or guts. Faithfulness is the friend who is there whatever has happened. Faithfulness is the brother or sister who still loves you. Faithfulness is in the ancient church door. Faithfulness is in the face of Christ. Faithfulness is in the bread and the wine. Faithfulness is at the centre of our mission. Faithfulness is what God shows to us. Let’s do our bit and show it to each other and let it shine in our mission as a church.