A small chain of four links sits in my left front pocket. Reminders of the four bonds in 2 Timothy 2:1-2. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you  have heard from me  in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men , who will be able to teach others  also.” Faith moves from one generation to the next, then to the next, and so on. It’s a quiet but steady movement. And it’s how, by the Spirit, we abandon our former self devotion and start to share God’s love with others.
In past posts I’ve mentioned Art, my high school youth pastor. He modeled this linkage to me, especially through his regular Psalm 34:8 refrain, “O, taste and see the Lord is good!” His love for Jesus included a rich devotion to Scriptures; and with that, a devotion to me and others. It’s where I saw faith working in real life.
Since then many have heard Art’s “taste and see!” through me. Often through partnership Bible read throughs [see my separate sidebar article]. They then extend this to others. Each reading partner gets his own set of chainlinks once we finish, representing a call to share the “grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This progression offers a life-to-life unity reaching back to Jesus himself.
How common is this faith-sharing progression? In the first century, when church growth was explosive in the Mediterranean world, it was widespread. Today it’s slower, and many Christians seem less engaged in their faith. Think of the church in Ephesus after it lost its first love. More immediate personal concerns and life demands crowd out spirituality. So for many a lively vision of Jesus as the center of life has subsided into Sunday church attendance.
Yet a broad need for spiritual relationships continues. Social networking and constant texting are thin alternatives that don’t go deep. And with looser life bonds our human vulnerabilities—isolation, addictions, and even self-loathing—can grow, with tragic results.
The cure? Get to know Jesus. By seeking him “first.” By receiving him as the ultimate source of life and meaning. Respond to him as God by embracing him as central in our thinking, walking, talking, eating, spending, and choosing. By asking him, “Lord, what would you like to do tonight? Some Netflix? Or, better, maybe I can call someone and see how they’re doing?” Try reading John’s gospel today, and then read half of Acts tomorrow. Find someone else who is captured by Jesus and ask how his or her faith is making a difference. Be honest in your sharing and caring. Listen for Christ’s gentle nudges.
Each link in my little chain is made of steel. Living faith is like steel. Much more than a collection of ideas or soft sentiments. It’s formed as the Spirit works in and through us. Faith is based on what Jesus said. As in, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And when he’s the focus of life we naturally turn away from self-concerns in favor of a growing devotion to him. And to anyone he gives us. We become “lovers” in the way caring parents love their child. We offer food, nurturing words, caring hands, and we change diapers as needed. It’s a messy joy, always alert to what others need. And the benefits are so rich that we share them freely.
This, again, all depends on Christ’s Spirit living in us. Without God’s heart we live with a stone-like indifference to Jesus. People can pretend faith through social posturing—doing whatever a loose form of Christianity requires—but it ends there. Many, including those raised in Christian homes without actually meeting Jesus, experience this life. So, too, anyone who marries a believer without sharing their faith. Real faith is heartfelt, transformative, and overflowing. And without it Bible reading won’t work. We need a “face” behind the words for it to have any force.
The contrast of real and unreal versions of faith isn’t meant to shame or berate people who don’t find Jesus and faith attractive. Paul set out this contrast in terms of desires—”But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” [Ro 6:17-18]. So that people who meet Jesus find him to be, literally, captivating. And those who haven’t met him are still captured by personal concerns.
So the main feature of my pocketed links is that I’m always looking for anyone drawn to what I, or other fans, say about Jesus. To share in my “slavery.” Most won’t be interested, but over the years I always find some who are. And those who hear him become “heart-linked” to other responders. Once we’ve tasted the Lord’s goodness, we share it freely with anyone and everyone.
Before I finish, let me invite any readers who haven’t yet tasted how good life with Jesus is to press ahead. Pray privately, “Jesus, I’d like to know you. From the heart.” And, hopefully with a Bible nearby, see what begins to stir in your soul. He loves to forge new chainlinks.