Beliefs are the collection of ideas we pick up on the journey of life that help us to have hope. Faith is the reason we collect them. Belief is what we learn throughout our lives, that which helps put the Greatest Mystery of the Universe into a ten-minute presentation. Faith makes us want to share it. I’ve confused the two in my younger days. Put more faith in my collected ideas than the reason I was carrying them. Basically, my beliefs took my focus off of God and onto me.
One might see this as a matter of semantics, but to accept empirical facts or even learned behavior as a basis of faith, by definition, negates faith. It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. It is the realization that there is no way that I can truly understand it all and still be in this much of a mess. I have faith in things I know nothing of, what I can never truly comprehend and have no reason to believe. Some of us have a pretty good idea of what we think His plan is and have put the notion of God into a format that we can more readily understand. But the true realization of God is based on pure, blind faith, not the beliefs I’ve collected. In my life, I’ve often mixed the two up.
I put my beliefs ahead of love. I focused on living a right life by focusing on my own righteousness rather than the servitude I was called for. Though the message of Jesus was to serve your fellow man – to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned – I just chose to tell them about how my life became so perfect through the love of Jesus and how they could go to heaven when they died. My heart was in the right place, but my focus was off.
I saw it a lot in the church. People putting so much faith in their beliefs that they became Law, that which Jesus came not to condemn but to fulfill. Nobody truly explained to me that instead of looking for ways he was going to fulfill the Law in my life, I should have been watching the example of how he pulled it off in his own. The life of servitude and unconditional love for all who crossed his path, regardless of their sins against the Law and even himself, forgiving even the ones who would accuse him and nail him to a cross, this is the life of Christ. He said he would teach us to be fishers of men so that we might be able to eat forever.
Instead, the pews have been filled with hunters, torches and pitchforks leaning in the foyer for the next witch hunt. They are shameful aggressors who sacrifice personal happiness and shared joy for the vehement disagreement about what makes one happy and what gives one joy. And in the trenches of this battlefield are the casualties of war who were just trying to find any way at all amidst a cruel world of pride-ridden jackasses who won’t plow the field because there’s too much grass.
I was one of those jackasses – more interested in the future than the moment. Caring for others by telling them what I thought they should know for eternal salvation instead of meeting their needs right now. I think it’s a prevalent condition in the church today. Instead of compassion, there is opinion. It’s a widely held opinion as most popular beliefs are, but it is still an opinion. Instead of healing, there is judgment.
This is an excerpt from The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Get your copy today.