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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

 “…and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.”  (Acts 15:9).  Revisiting the 8th occurrence of ‘Jesus’ Faith’ in the Acts of The Apostles.

You could not hang around the Christian faith very long without returning to the ‘matters of the heart.  Clearly, life, when reduced to its lowest common denominator, IS a matter of the heart.  The need for cleansing of the heart is one that is overlooked with far too great a consistency in the Christian faith, yet with far-reaching consequences.

While the ‘cleansing of the heart’ is given so little emphasis in Christianity, the distinctions are overrated.  Even in the process of establishing hierarchical orders in the infancy stages of Christianity where the very finest lines between it and it’s parent faith Judaism are being drawn; the word of God comes to Peter that “He made no distinction between us and them…”.

It’s a difficult thing, ‘distinction’ whose word in the Greek text is so very rare, both words, that it is next to impossible to discover it’s etymology.  I am reminded of the course, ‘Mission of The Church’ taught by Dr. George Thomas and his discussion on ‘The Schisms’.  Five of which are identified as ‘Great’ in that they are seen from a ‘global’ perspective as they impact the ways, the mores, practices, and belief systems of the world both historically and universally.  The ‘East-West Schism’ is not just ‘religious’ but it is also ‘cultural’; the ‘North-South Schism’ encompasses ‘politics’; the ‘Black-White Schism’ is ‘ racial’; where the ‘Male-Female Schism’ is ‘gender’ driven.  Fifth for me, would be the ‘Rich-Poor’ Schism, economic in scope of power of ‘the haves’ over against ‘the have nots’.  The very nature of ‘schism’ (even the distinctions can become ‘-isms’) simply defined as ‘split’, is inherently and systematically divisive as ‘sub-schisms’ appear in unlimited presence so that there is found among these schisms ‘least common denominat(ions)’.

Most especially in the church.  I am never quite able to put my hand on why Church History is so laborious for me, except that the huge discussions over the issues that ultimately divide and distinguish the forever growing ‘splits’ in the Christian faith leave me wondering about questions of authority as opposed to bringing me closer to God.

The ‘cleansing of the heart’ we have looked at previously in it’s relationship to the First Commandment of the religious life in the Judeo-Christian faith tradition.  “You shall love the Lord with all your heart…” compounded with what I believe to be Jesus’ single most important teaching— “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”  Notwithstanding this life application, when applied, when practiced ‘BY FAITH’, it is one of those things that make you go ‘hallelujah’.  Especially in light of Jesus’ use of ‘pistis’— where ‘cleansing the heart by faith’ IS HEALING!  In this view, “all these evil things” is ‘heart disease’.  It is the cleansing of the heart by faith issue that could never be over rated.  Radical?  I think so.

I suspect we have come to a most important point of redemption in the life of Simeon Peter.  It is major for the Church to hear him say, “…and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.”  Now to cease the need to clean ‘THEIR’ hearts and   SEE AND KNOW the need to clean OUR OWN!

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