Beliefs are an important part of being alive. They have the potential to create Peace, Hope and Grace. They are what persuade millions of people to live their lives in ways that bless other people here and now. They are what convict us that there is something bigger to live for than ourselves.
Yet, they can also cause great pain and hurt. They can lead us to judge others who are different to us. They can create wars. They can cause people to hate themselves. They imprison, they condemn and they bring division.
So are beliefs that important? Or could they be more trouble than they’re worth?
As a Christian I’m told repeatedly that belief is critical. That if I just believed the right things about the Bible or God or Jesus then I will go to Heaven. That I need to believe more and things will start to happen. But this rarely happens. I can’t believe sometimes. Other times I just don’t want to. But this is what our faith is based on. Belief which increasingly seems fickle and based on our mood?
Jesus said that all I need is faith the size of a seed. And anyone with a basic Primary school education will know that out of seeds grow great trees. So why do I feel bad about not having enough or not believing the right things?
More and more though I am seeing that the beliefs we have aren’t as important as we make them out to be. There is a lot of noise right now in the Christian world. There are lots of blogs, lots of twitter accounts to follow, lots of books, lots of speakers, lots of protests, lots of abuse, lots of addiction, lots of fear. But what there is not a lot of is Love.
And if we’re to listen to the Bible as many of us who claim we hold the right beliefs love to refer to, Love is the belief from which all other beliefs must be judged.
Jesus said so much when He told his followers that the most important commands were to Love God and to Love others. Everything else is simply an outpouring of those two commands. If they aren’t we need to abandon ship. And quickly.
So is freedom holding firmly to what we believe the Bible says about certain issues, in gripping so tightly to it are we unable to hold anything else of value.
Are is it found in something else? Or someone else?
For many Christians the Bible is the cornerstone of their faith. And it should be held in high regard. But it’s not what we worship. One of the reasons for this is because we claim that the Bible will be offensive to some people. We just accept that idea as if it’s as common as the DUP offending some part of society. But is the Bible offensive? Or is the way we believe that all truth comes directly from it and from nowhere else what causes Christians to be offensive, not the Bible?
The Bible is not meant as a instruction manual for how to be Holy or as a list of what things are acceptable to do.
It’s not meant as an oracle of all truth on how to live, but to point us to a different type of truth which invites all people to be alive.
Why is this good news? Because God is better than we think. The people that read the Bible and think they know from it what God is like, know him the least. The ones that can win arguments by backing them up with verses or the ones who have missed the point.
God responds to story not to cold hard facts. He responds to our fears, our joys and our life in all its complexities. He responds to people. The very act of Jesus dying on the cross exemplifies this better than any event in history. If the secret to belief was to make sure we’ve got them all sewn up and clear, then Jesus could have saved Himself a lot of pain.
Instead, To Jesus the most important thing wasn’t how many Bible verses we could recite, but in who He was. Read the Gospels. Repeatedly and patiently, Jesus has to explain over and over to His disciples the point of His life. They thought it was about prestige and about power but it was about Love. Look at how He responded to sinners. He didn’t try and get them to sing to the party tune but to turn to Him.
A person. Not a doctrine or belief.
His treatment of these two groups of people couldn’t be further from the way we usually think our beliefs should look in the world.
In the Bible, following Jesus looked like this.
Denying knowing him over and over, having your friends demolish someones home just so they can catch a glimpse of Him, having Him dine with the very people who refused or couldn’t obey the religious rules, being an adulterer and being forgiven, rejecting everything you hold dear to go searching for a lost sheep, downplaying the importance of playing the game if it means someone returns home to be healed, or it means someone is given a second chance. Screwing up over and over again. Not following the rules just because…
In contrast then look at how he reacted to the religious.
Judgement, anger and an almost complete disregard to their view of scripture.
It can all be summed up like this. If you’re following the ‘rules’ so tightly that people are losing out on this new freedom then you need to forget the ‘rules’.
Isn’t it funny that most of us reject the religious people of Jesus day as being wrong and misguided about what God was like, then turn around and accuse others of the same failures? We say they didn’t understand what the scriptures meant, then claim that we now understand ultimately what they mean.
We’ve built our beliefs up so highly that they’ve become unstable in light of suffering, or someone different than ourselves.
Some of us then question our faith because we expect the Bible and God to line up with how we think it should. When we read the Bible as clear cut and straightforward which it isn’t, it’s little wonder we get stuck. Love is messy and complicated and we hide under our security blanket of rules and commandments. We’re told this is what God is like but something inside us knows it has to be better than this.
Others, are afraid and the only thing we can rely on is the Bible and what it says. And when that gets confusing or conflicts with our worldview of God, instead of entering into the doubt fully and opening our hearts, we dig down and stick our heels in the mud.
Which leaves us stuck and drags everyone else down too.
So we attack.
Gays are abominations.
Divorce is evil.
Sorry it’s Sunday, we’re closed.
I’m right, so you must be wrong.
You can’t go into a Porn show, you’ll get contaminated.
Love the Sinner, hate the sin.
I could go on but you get the idea. These are all examples of where we have worshiped rules because they hold up to our beliefs.
But they’re also examples of where we hurt and reduce people to issues and problems to be controlled.
But that’s not Love and it’s not what our beliefs are for. It’s not what Jesus did.
And if there is one false belief that we must repent on, I would gamble that it’s this.