When I was wondering what the characteristics of a person of faith are, the first attribute which came to mind was a lack of fear. Throughout the Bible, whenever there is a divine-human encounter, the angel’s first words are: “Fear not.” So living life courageously seems essential.
Then I remembered that courage derives from the French word for “heart.” So in order to live without fear requires a heart in the right place, so to speak.
The words on the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis came to mind, “Sans peur, sans espoir, je suis libre.” Without fear, without hope, I am free.
That’s puzzling. What does he mean “without hope”? Hope seems to be another essential. Maybe misguided or unrealistic hope is not a good thing.
Some people base their religion on fear. That’s very stifling. If we’re created in God’s image and we’re afraid to live fully, that might be considered an insult to our creator.
Another characteristic of a person of faith is integrity. What you see is what you get.
The person of faith is the same in various settings.
Talking to people of status and power is no different than talking to people considered unimportant in the larger society.
Gerald Jampolsky, a psychologist who worked with catastrophically ill children. (Kids who had only a few weeks of life ahead of them) wrote a book: Love Is Letting Go of Fear.
His claim is that there are two basic emotions: love and fear. Love expresses itself in appreciation and freedom while fear is found in anger, judgmentalism and a narrowing in of life.
Psalm 15 also captured my attention: “O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?”
People with the attributes we’d expect to find listed are identified, but then “those in whose eyes the wicked are despised,” make the cut.
So God thinks “despising” is all right. Does that mean avoiding, calling out and refusing to go along with some people or ideas? I’m not sure, but it is intriguing.
We do know people who believe, “God loves everyone and I should, too,” which may be a part of the problem, because they don’t stand against what is wrong. The Psalmist’s thoughts will hold me for a while.
Again in Psalm 15 those invited to abide in God’s tent are “those who do not take a bribe against the innocent.”
Has that ever been possible in politics? Do we take a bribe against the innocent if we don’t advocate for the hungry and helpless?
Then I wondered about likability. I would imagine the Samaritan woman at the well, who was described in John 4, didn’t necessarily find Jesus immediately likable.
Are those who speak the truth in love likable?
I understand that the sign language gesture for forgiveness is to hold hands out and down as though letting go of anything in them.
I have problems, personally, with forgiveness, but do think the ability to forgive is a characteristic of a mature religious person.
So although I’m not always able to exhibit those characteristics, I continue to strive after them.
The Rev. Dorothy Price Knudson is retired from active ministry in the Presbyterian Church, but still preaches regularly at various local churches and Presbyterian churches in the Eastern Oregon Presbytery. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.