“If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed…” Luke 17:6
I can’t…I just can’t. Ever hear or say that one? I can’t forgive her for what she did. I can’t do what God wants me to do today, I have this work to do. I can’t love our enemies…not after what they did to us. I can’t turn the other cheek. I just can’t…I don’t have the strength…I need more faith.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus doesn’t accept that one. He has just explained to the disciples that they are to forgive those who act against them—over and over and over again. And, the disciples—like me—feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, plead with Jesus to increase their faith.
Then, what does Jesus say but, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed…” you could do miracles. What is Jesus saying to me? To you? Some think that Jesus refers to the power of even a little faith. But, you know, I’m not sure that’s what he means.
Yes, a mustard seed is a VERY tiny seed. But, is that all there is to the metaphor Jesus is using? I don’t think so. In trying to grasp his meaning, I found that the mustard seed is a tenacious little seed. It is the only seed that scientists have been unable to hybridize—i.e., combine with some other, “foreign” seed to make a new seed. Additionally, when subjected to radiation, the mustard seed—unlike other seeds—does not mutate and produce deformed fruit. In essence, the mustard seed retains its purity and remains unchangeable.
So-o, then, what is it Jesus is saying? I think he is saying faith is not a matter of quantity. Faith is…. Limitless forgiveness does not require more faith, it requires the presence of faith—tenacious, immutable trust in the enormous love and power of God.
Looking at it like that, when I say “I can’t,” in a sense I’m really saying “I don’t” or “I won’t.” I don’t trust my relationship with the One who calls me to the task. I won’t believe in what I know to be true and act accordingly.
Whoa! I don’t like that…it was easier to say, “I can’t”…somehow I could let myself off the hook. I can’t love my neighbor—especially if he is Taliban. I can’t forgive my sister, my colleague, my friend. But, Jesus says I can…if I have faith as a grain of mustard seed…I can, I really can…and somewhere in the innermost recesses of my heart, I know I must open the doors of trust and walk into the tomorrow God will create. God give me the strength and the wisdom to do so. Amen.
By Shirley Scritchfield