There’s nothing quite like reading a physical, print-on-paper book, but Kindle reading has its perks. One of my favorites is the option to highlight and look up words and phrases as I read them. Word nerd that I am, I do this when reading physical books, too, but reading digitally saves me that extra step of pulling out a second dictionary.
Although I always enjoy discovering the meaning of new-to-me words, I also frequently seek out the dictionary definition of a word or phrase that is familiar but that I’d like to learn more about. I experienced this recently while reading a legal thriller in which I came across the phrase good faith. I’ve seen this word pairing before, possibly even used it myself; but with faithful as my Word for 2023, this year has seen me paying extra careful attention to an occurrence of the word faith in any of its iterations.
After a cursory look at the dictionary definition of good faith (“honesty or sincerity of intention”), my interest was piqued and a full-fledged deep-dive ensued. From Wikipedia, I learned that “in human interactions, good faith is a sincere intention to be fair, open, and honest, regardless of the outcome of the interaction.”
Good faith comes from the Latin phrase bona fide—a term still used today to describe something as being genuine, certifiable, or authentic—and it is used in various contexts. For instance, in Law the term is used to refer to an implied covenant presuming that all parties will deal honestly and fairly with one another; a breach of this good faith covenant is grounds for a lawsuit. The concept of good faith also applies in business, where it is used to describe qualifications that employers are allowed to take into consideration when hiring.
My examination of this often-used but infrequently-contemplated phrase turned into a worshipful experience as I began to reflect on how fully the Lord embodies this term. Our “Good Faith God” is honest (in fact, He is incapable of deception—Hebrews 6:18) and His intentions are always sincere. He is invariably fair and just (Proverbs 16:11). And He is unequivocally genuine, setting the standard for originality and authenticity. Our God is absolutely bona fide—the Real Deal!
All other applications of good faith are simply echoes of the Good Faith exemplified by our Creator. But as His image-bearers we are also called to a standard of thinking, believing, and acting in good faith. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes His disciples to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We obviously won’t reach God-level perfection this side of Heaven, but we can grow in our maturity as we step into good-faith attributes of integrity and authenticity.
Sadly, contemporary Christianity has inherited an aroma of insincerity and hypocrisy. How many stories have we heard from individuals who turned their backs on God because of the bad-faith behavior of self-proclaimed Christians? In the same sermon in which Jesus encourages us to “be perfect,” He reminds His followers that we are the light of the world and calls us to let our light shine before others so that our good works may point them to an even better God (Matthew 5:14-16). His goodness does not hinge on the reputations of His children, but our own embodiment of good faith qualities can have Kingdom impact.
In the weeks since my initial deep-dive into the meaning of good faith, I have begun to incorporate the phrase into my own spiritual vernacular. My moments of prayer contain gratitude to the Lord for being a Good Faith God, wholly and completely worthy of my worship; I also pray that God would be at work developing the good faith qualities in me that I may live up to the title of Good Faith, Bona Fide Follower of Christ.