There are two meanings for the word faith. One is a noun, as in “the Christian Faith”. In this age of pluralism and live-and-let-live, the Christian faith is represented as merely one of a smorgasbord of spiritual options for the inquiring; many think it restrictive and unappealing, especially if they have had encounters with Christians who were legalistic or unloving. You can adopt this faith, or that faith; all are considered legitimate.

The other meaning is better rendered “trust”. It is an active, relational word, and presupposes an Object of trust. Trust is something you can work with. It is something we choose to do, as in choosing to have faith in someone, to trust in someone as reliable.

In spiritual terms, this trust assumes there a real, uncreated God. Trust is something you have in a Person: it is not just a conviction, opinion or a belief about how things work. This is something a lot of people can’t get their head around, because it suggests the relational aspect. The modern view is that God as an idea, something we made up. But Christians believe God is a Person, not a belief system. What makes Christianity so radical is not so much the moral teaching (which isn’t substantively different than any of the world religions) but the Good News that we can now have a relationship with this very real, self-existent God, a 24/7, one-on-one encounter with the One who came to earth as a human baby, grew up, had a ministry, died, and resurrected to make this relationship possible.

The issue is that faith – trust – is a heart sort of thing, and it’s our heart that God wants. In fact, it’s all He’s ever really wanted. What God lost when man fell was our hearts. We have decided that maybe God is holding out on us, and that we want to try our own way, thank you very much. Look at what the serpent said to Eve: “Did God really say…” And so we chose to not trust, walling off in our hearts places that God wasn’t allowed to go.

The legalist likes rules because they imply that once the legal obligation has been met, what’s left remains; like, as C.S. Lewis points out, an honest man trying to pay his taxes. He hopes there will be enough left to live on. But God wants more; he wants not our time or money, but ourselves. The legalist says to God, “This is Yours… and this is mine. Hands off, God”. But God offers no such deal; in matters of the heart, such thinking is petty and grasping. A couple, newly married and in love, wouldn’t bargain with one another like that. Why should we expect God to settle for less than all?