By James S. Helme
Sometimes we need the “whole story” in order to understand what’s happening. The first four verses of Luke 17 shed some additional light on the disciples and us as generations of the faithful. Jesus has just given the disciples some “hard” teachings:
(1) you better not cause another to stumble in his or her faith journey; (2) you will need to rebuke other disciples if they sin; and (3) you must forgive those who repent and ask forgiveness, even if it’s seven times a day! In light of these teachings, the disciples beg Jesus to “increase our faith!” They acknowledge the difficulty of following through on these mandates.
Jesus’ response, “If you had faith …,” is a conditional clause. In the Greek language, this states a condition of fact: “If you had faith-and of course you do.” Jesus might have been telling the disciples that while their faith is small, God will help it grow as they continue in their faith journey. Perhaps he is encouraging them by what they might do as their faith increases.
One of my joys in ministry has come in encouraging church members to be all that God wants them to be. One woman, in particular, had little confidence in what she could do for God. Asked to be an elder, she hesitated to accept and came to me. I assured her that I would pray with and for her as she made her decision and, also, if she served at the Communion table. That was ten years ago. Her increasing faith in God and in herself has been a blessing to behold!
How am I, gracious God, like the disciples in this scripture-wanting to increase my faith during those difficult times in my life? How am I like Jesus-striving to encourage others who seek to be the persons you would have them be? Be with me, Compassionate Friend, and show me your way. Amen.