Over the next few months, we’ll be posting pieces written by Micah, a former Christian aniblogger. While his site, Otaku Collision, is no longer extant, we’ve arranged to keep a few of his treasured works (greatest hits?) alive on our site. This is the third post in the series, joining previous ones covering Rurouni Kenshin Trust and Betrayal and Fullmetal Alchemist, and was originally entitled, “What Faith Really Means.“ After finishing the article, see a brief note below about Homura and Rebellion Story.
Faith is a fundamental core of Christianity: it is what allows believers to receive salvation and is essential for Christian growth. It gives us hope when we do not see a way out and eases our suffering when we are at our breaking points. Faith in Jesus Christ, accepting him as our Lord and savior, leads to the greatest gift that has ever been given to humankind, yet we do not use it as we should. Churches all across America are dying, and the disease infecting the masses is passive faith.
We claim the name of Jesus Christ every Sunday morning and throw him to the side every other day of the week. The Holy Spirit will speak to us, directing our actions and guiding our decisions, yet we follow our own desires. The people we are called to show God’s unconditional love to are right in front of our faces and we pass them by without a second thought. People wonder why their walk with Jesus Christ isn’t as strong as it could be and passive faith is possibly the reason; according to James this is the equivalent of having no faith at all. (James 2:26)
When looking for examples of people who possess strong faith, I believe that we can immediately turn to Madoka Magica‘s Homura Akemi, the ultimate symbol of belief in the unseen. Throughout the anime’s complicated plot, we discover near episode ten that Homura has traveled back to the past hundreds of times, redoing her timeline over and over again to reverse the terrible death that awaits her friend, Madoka. In gaining the ability to continue this cycle, Homura has given up her soul and become a Magical Girl, living a cursed life that never ends until her Soul Gem has become polluted. She has literally given up everything to save Madoka and will not give up until she achieves her goal.
Her unwavering faith through these hopeless circumstances is what truly defines her character. Homura has seen almost every possible future, prepared for every outcome, yet she still is denied the life of her friend. Madoka’s life is written in Death’s book, predestined to be slaughtered by the witch Walpurgisnacht, yet Homura still tries to save her. I think that this is what faith really means: to live as though the desired goal is already a reality. The book of Hebrews addresses this definition of faith and explains Biblically what it is:
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)
Does the verse say have confidence when we feel like it? When life is going well? Only when it is easy? Sadly, this is how many Christians in the body of Christ live their lives and it is killing congregations across the world. Believers automatically assume that when they become Christians, their quality of life will dramatically improve, when in fact the opposite is true. They think that their faith is a salvation prayer when it actually is a lifetime commitment. Jesus warned his disciples and followers that trials will come their way if they decide to follow him: “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23, NIV)
When Jesus instructed them to “take up their cross daily,” he was referring to the torture method adopted by the Romans known as crucifixion, which was designed to extend the pain of death as long as possible. Faith wasn’t planned to be easy and those who become Christians are signing themselves up to be soldiers, not sissies. Homura Akemi understood this fact and knew that her journey to save Madoka would lead to hardship and sorrow. She knew that she could not have passive faith in order to prevent her friend’s death, and she displayed her resolve through action.
Similar to Homura, our faith is an expression of hope that we have for the future and is expressed through action. We follow Jesus Christ not because it is a Sunday school tradition, but because we look forward to spending eternity with Him in heaven. Again, Hebrews addresses faith in regard to Old Testament heroes and explains how they were able to hold on to their hope:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)
Christians have even more reason to follow after Jesus Christ than Homura Akemi in her belief. She time traveled hundreds of times, not knowing if she would ever save Madoka, whereas believers already know the outcome of their death. We understand that heaven is accessible to those who believe and have faith in God.
If we are truly, genuinely born-again Christians, we should not be living according to our flesh, passively holding on to our faith. If God really gave us a heart transplant and showed us new purpose, let’s start living by it and look to Homura Akemi’s example of living each day as though heaven is already a reality.
Twwk’s Commentary: The Rebellion Story, a movie continuation of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, explores Homura’s obsession further, including her own transformation into a demon to save Madoka, even as she realizes that what she’s doing might ultimately set her at odds with her friend (stay tuned for the next film to see if this is so!). There’s so much to be pulled from this marvelous, heartrending film, not least of which—in regards to the topic at hand—is the possibility that faith is misguided, that it may not be love after all, at least not a pure one. Faith can be misguided; it can even be prideful, and thus, the direct opposite of what worship is, even if one claims that faith is about trusting in God. A strong faith is what we should aim for, certainly, and what should naturally occur as we come closer to Christ, but authenticity is also what God desires, for even in such a lowly state we can draw closer to him and exclaim, “More faith, my Lord! Give me more faith!”
Featured illustration by Chariot.F (reprinted w/permission)