Faith and Obedience – Reflections on Matthew 14:22-33

“If Peter had not taken the risk, he would never have learnt the meaning of faith. Before he can believe, the utterly impossible and ethically irresponsible situation on the waves of the sea must be displayed. The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if men imagine that they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves like fanatics…For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.63-64)

“Faith is only real where there is obedience.” That hurts a little. That is a little demanding of God don’t you think. Surely there is a way I can have faith in God and not have to obey him all the time. There has to be a way I can skirt that issue or at least amend it. God is demanding a lot if “faith is only real where there is obedience.” Cannot I not simply believe and that be good enough for God.

When Peter gets out of the boat he is being obedient to Christ’s calling. Peter wanted to do everything that Jesus did, like a good student of a rabbi. Being the brownnoser he was, he asks Jesus to invite him out into the waves. He hears the call, “Come,” and leaves the comfort of the boat.

Bonhoeffer’s words hurt but they are true. Faith without obedience is not faith. One can believe in Christ but if they are not willing to follow Christ’s call their faith is null and void. For those stagnate in life, ignoring that calling Christ is laying on their hearts, their faith has become useless. I was given a new set of irons which I have yet to play a round of golf with. They are worthless sitting in the garage and only have real purpose when they are being used. We cannot place our faith in the corner of a dark closet, hoping to bring it out someday. If we keep faith there, then it starts to lose its purpose and fades away. To get the full sense, power and purpose of faith, one has to take it out of the closet, dust it off, and use it by being obedient to the one calling.

(Photo: Walking on Water by Brian Jekel)

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