Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What We Believe

Henry Neufeld has a great post at his blog: "Do We Live What We Believe?"

He's been editing a book called The Jesus Paradigm, and has been reflecting on a statement in the book - "The key to church renewal is very simple: every follower of Jesus is to live what is believed."

Neufeld then reflects on this statement, writing, "What I do question is how God can be especially present at so many worship services with so little impact. People go back again and again to experience the presence of God and then leave and go on living in the same way.

Either we are not experiencing the presence of God as much as we say we are, or that presence is having much less impact on us than it should.

I’m afraid it may come back to belief. We need to practice what we believe. That’s true. But is there another dirty secret in many of our churches–that we don’t actually believe the stuff we claim. I’m not talking here about doctrinal statements or theological propositions. I’m talking about belief that there is a God and that he does have expectations, that he might get involved in our lives in some way...

So let me ask one question, of myself as well as of my readers:

Do we really believe what we say we believe?"

His post made me think of a Tracy Chapman song that I love, "Change." She sings, "If everything you think you know made your life unbearable, would you change?" I love this line, my favorite line, because it is such a challenge. Don't we find our lives unbearable, sometimes, when we hold up what we believe next to how we're living? Would we change? Well, not very often, right? As Neufeld points out, the gap between what we believe and how we live is immense.

I was also thinking about this theme during Lent this year, when I preached about Pontius Pilate. Biblical accounts and literary portrayals of Pilate ever since tend to be somewhat sympathetic to Pilate - a man who knew in his heart what Jesus was, but felt his hands were tied. But to me, if we believe that Pilate believed Jesus was someone special, what we know is that what Pilate believed didn't really matter to him more than his status, his position, his life the-way-it-was. He would literally see another person crucified, who he suspected was innocent, rather than risk his position.

But Pilate isn't really any different than us - or than me, at least. I believe, or claim to believe, some pretty specific things about Jesus and how I am called to live because of how Jesus lived. But do I change? And if I don't, why is it? Because I don't believe it, really? Because what I believe doesn't matter enough to me? Because I believe other things more deeply?

Good food for thought...

Hat tip: John Meunier.
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