Believe and do the right things…

6 Feb

I was recently speaking with a young woman who identified herself as Catholic. Around the end of our conversation I simply asked (as I often do) “What do you think is the central message of Christianity?” Her response struck me as all too common:

“You need to believe in God and do what you’re supposed to do.” Army-Formation-600x399

On one level, she’s not entirely wrong: belief is certainly required and there are plenty of prescribed actions (and plenty that are forbidden). However, thinking of this as the central message shrinks the Gospel and ultimately misses the point.

I mentioned to her that the Bible says even demons believe in God (James 2:19) and this doesn’t seem to be enough. We are required not simply to believe in his existence but to believe that he is who he says he is (a loving Father, an omnipotent creator) and can do what he claims (rescue us from our own self destruction). In this sense the belief that is required looks more like trust. Growing up I believed in Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins in this way. Every time he came up to bat I was sure he would get a hit and every time he went to make a catch I was sure the ball was his. Kirby did not justify my belief, although he was an excellent player. Believing in Jesus means trusting that he is not wrong about who He is (God in the flesh) or what he has done for us (provided an answer to the riddle of our own self-serving, self-destructive tendencies). It also means trusting (unlike our ancestors Adam and Eve) that God really does want us to be happy and built us in such a way that following and glorifying Him is the best route to that outcome.

I also questioned whether or not doing the right things was really the point. Jesus tells us that if we obey his commands it means we love him, but the order of operations is important. We cannot simply wake up one day and decide to obey his commands, thus proving our love. Instead we admit that we are powerless to do so and then let Him shape us into people who have not only the will but the ability to follow Him.

My new friend thought this was interesting and really well put, and I hope she liked it enough to try it out.

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2 Responses to “Believe and do the right things…”

  1. nicky301 February 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    For me, belief implies a level of trust that alters the future course of my life…I will behave in a different manner, if I truly BELIEVE that Jesus is and does all that He says; anything less is mere intellectual agreement, not belief.

    • stevewimmer February 7, 2013 at 12:27 am #

      Yes, any beliefs we truly hold will alter our actions – regardless of whether or not we are aware of them. Belief in Jesus is something that we must be aware of – it can’t simply happen and exist beneath the surface. (Unlike our [true, so far] belief that the world will not end tomorrow – we aren’t aware of it, but live as if it is true…)

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