Saturday, May 18, 2013

Trusting and Believing

      In the last post I asserted that as Christians we are not defined so much by the rightness of our beliefs but by our relationship with Christ, a relationship characterized by love and demonstrated by the way that we love others.    In other words, we find our life in Christ, not in the rightness of our beliefs.  It is Jesus whom we trust, not the rightness of our beliefs.
The problem comes, of course, when we define trusting Jesus as holding the right beliefs about Jesus, which is how it was put to me when I was young.   In fact, the way it was put was “trusting in Jesus,” which doesn’t seem like much of a difference but really is.  “Trusting in Jesus” was synonymous with “believing in Jesus” which was synonymous with “accepting Jesus.”  All different ways of saying the same thing, and the way to do the thing they all said you needed to do was to believe the right things about Jesus and then pray and tell him that you believed all the right things about him—that he was the son of God, that he died on the cross for your sins, and then he rose from the dead to prove that he was God, and that if asked he would forgive you of your sins, and so now you were asking and believing that indeed all this was true and you were now forgiven.
All of these things, all these beliefs, everyone of them is absolutely true.  But then you come to find out that there were some other things you had to believe in order to believe in Jesus, because if you doubted them, well, how could you be sure of, say, the resurrection?  The list of right beliefs that you had to hold depended on which version of Christianity you were hanging out with, so on that list you would might the virgin birth, the absolute truth of Scripture, the premillennial return of Christ, the Rapture of the church before the premillennial return of Jesus, a Baptism of the Holy Spirit separate from and subsequent to the filling of the Holy Spirit, a literal six-24-hour-day creation, the laying on of hands for healing, advocacy for the poor, and ax heads that actually floated.  You couldn’t afford to be wrong on any of these things because wrong beliefs on these things could lead to wrong beliefs about Jesus, and wrong beliefs about Jesus indicate a faulty acceptance of Jesus, which means you just might not really be saved.
Boy.  I sure am glad salvation is by grace and not by works.
Even if it were possible for any one person to be absolutely right on every belief, that’s not what Jesus calls for.
Jesus calls for faith, and the kind of faith he calls for is the kind in which you will commit to a certain course of action even though you are uncertain about the outcome.  Even though it seems that the course of action will probably fail.  Even though it seems that the course of action is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
That’s what Jesus asks of us.  He tells us that the way to abundant life is not to seek it, that the way to finish first is to be last, that the lowly servant is the greatest  person in the room and the one who is obviously the greatest person in the room really isn’t.  He asks us to stake our lives on these things, which seems nuts.  But it’s what he did.
Of course, it got him crucified.  Who wants that?  But he was resurrected, and we all want that.  What we really want is resurrection without crucifixion, but Jesus said the two go hand-in-hand.  “But, trust me, it all works out.”
         Do we?  Do we trust him?
Now, admittedly, in trusting him it helps if you believe that Jesus really is the Son of God, and that he really did rise from the dead, that he really does love us and wants to show us the way to life in the eternal kingdom.  All these right beliefs matter, because they help establish his bona fides, they give us reason to commit to following his course of action, but it’s the following that gives meaning to the right beliefs, not the other way around.  Trusting Jesus means trusting enough to actually follow, and trusting him in this way is the only thing that matters.

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