Friday, October 28, 2011

Belief vs Faith

I don't think there is anything more confusing than the concept of 'having faith'.  So much damage has been done in people's hearts and lives because they have been judged by their brothers and sisters for 'not having enough' faith.  We are taught we are 'saved' (aka, not going to hell) if we 'believe' in Jesus. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (side note: why does perish mean go to eternal hell?)

"Believing" means to many "believe Jesus died and rose again, believe he was born of a virgin, believe he was the son of God"...basically, get your facts straight.  If you don't 'believe' any of the corrects 'facts', then your not saved. (aka, God will reject you) This is why everyone fights so much over the 'facts'.  It sort of feels like you will need to take an entrance exam when you die..."question #1: What is the trinity? Don't know? Too bad so sad, that was something you had to 'believe' in.  So!"  But Jesus asked the people standing right in front of him to 'believe' in him.  I think a better word would be 'trust'.  If I ask you to 'believe' in me, I'm asking for your confidence.  "Don't worry...I can do it."  It seems Christians spend a lot of time trying to prove the Bible is if this will make people 'believe'.  But the thing about belief is, is does not make something true.  I can believe all day long the sun is made of jello, but it will not make it so.  The opposite is also true, just because I don't believe the stove is hot does not mean my hand will get any less burned if I touch it.  Either something is true or it is not true--belief does not change it.  Faith is something different.  The Bible defines it as "hope in something you can't prove is true".

Faith is a motivator into action.  Faith is what gives me courage to do something, because even though I can't prove it, I believe it is true. (maybe this is where faith and belief interact?)  If there is a chasm, and I want to get across, and someone says "there is a bridge here, you just can't see it", it would take faith to step off the cliff.  And yes, belief it is there. But regardless of what I believe...either it is there or it isn't.  So, back to saved by faith.  Many Christians think because they believe Jesus existed, they have earned salvation. (aka, forgiveness) --- This is why they can look down so terribly on atheists or anyone of another faith tradition, because they have 'chosen' not to believe, therefore, they are not forgiven. But FAITH is the thing that saves us. (and again I'll ask...saves us from what?  God's rejection?)

Paul goes on and on about faith in Romans and in Galatians, and guess what--most of that faith didn't even have to do with Jesus.  It's just about people believing God could do what he promised, even when everything in the physical realm shouted "THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE".  (like an old lady having a baby)  The story of Abraham sacrificing his son is a good example.  Everyone always talks about this story being about obedience...a good Christian would be willing to give up anything (even their children) if God asked them too.  Sadly, I think this is why so many parents completely abandon their gay children, because they see it as obedience to God.  But if you look closely at this story, you'll see the only reason Abraham decides to go ahead and sacrifice his son is because he believes God will make him alive again--because he trusts that God will make good on his promise to make his son into a great nation.  And sure enough, his FAITH is what God credits to him as righteousness, not his obedience.  So, are we to feel superior to those who's faith is weak?

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. (Romans 12:3)

And also:
If I have prophecy, and know all the secrets, and all the knowledge, and if I have all the faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. (I corn. 13:2)

Maybe faith is given to us so we can learn how to love.  Maybe learning to love...becoming loving as God is loving and knowing and living in His love for us... is being 'saved'.  Just a thought.