How does the New Testament speak about faith?


In the New Testament, faith takes first of all the form of a movement. It is a concrete step a person takes, that of “coming to Jesus.” Perhaps we could even say that before being a “movement towards” it is more fundamentally a thirst, a desire: “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink, whoever believes in me” (John 7:37). If Saint John parallels “coming to” and “believing in” (cf. 6:35), he knows at the same time that this “coming to Jesus” depends in the final analysis upon a secret attraction that the Father has already exercised on a person’s heart (6:44).

Faith is thus concerned in the first place not with specific truths or with promises for the future, nor even with insights into the existence of a transcendent God. It begins by “going towards” the person of Jesus, and this “going” is often motivated by a thirst. Something is already secretly at work in the heart. It is already attracted to. With the incarnation, with the presence of Jesus as a human being, faith at first takes an extremely simple form: a desire can contain in itself the beginning of faith; a movement already represents the beginning of the road.

When Jesus is no longer in the midst of his disciples physically, the movement towards him is no longer expressed by changing one’s place—going towards him and then following him—as was the case before the resurrection. Whoever believes in him still takes a concrete step, but this step involves abandoning oneself to him, handing oneself over and leaving room for him. The paradox of faith thus becomes more evident: it is practically nothing and it is what matters more than anything else. It is a matter of opening the door of our heart to him constantly, while at the same time knowing that he is already inside. Is there anything poorer or more disinterested than that—opening the door to someone who is already there? Christ does not dwell within me like a stranger who wants to take my place. He is there as the one who loves me, who has put himself in my place, who in his love is, in the depths of my being, more myself than I am. And yet it is up to me to open the door to him constantly, for between him and me everything remains personal; nothing happens without me, automatically. Everything is of the nature of a living relationship.

Saint Paul, for his part, employs a curious expression: “the faith of Christ” (e.g. Philippians 3:9). It thus does not only mean faith in Christ, either in the sense of recognizing who Christ is or in surrendering ourselves to him. There is more: faith comes from him as a gift; it is the faith of Christ and I receive it as that by which he unites me to himself and enables me to live like him. Here again, my part in faith seems almost nothing. And yet everything is given to me together with faith. This “almost nothing” determines my whole way of being.

Brother François

Last updated: 4 October 2007