Tuesday, 11 August 2009

What kind of belief really matters?

“Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish in the mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself.” Madeleine L’Engle

Here’s an annoying question, which I dare you to take a minute & ponder the answer too: “What do you really believe and what do you only think you’re supposed to believe?”

Ortberg highlights three different kinds of convictions or beliefs to help us understand why two people professing to the same faith can be so very, very different. Here we go…

Public convictions
These are the ideas that I want other people to think I believe, even though I really don’t believe them. Their purpose is to create an impression rather than portray the truth; they are the staple diet of politicians.

Because of my job there are statements that I think I should believe or that I get rewarded for pretending I believe. So I teach that “it is better to give than receive”, but my wallet is not always convinced. I encourage others to “not judge, lest you be judged”, yet my mouth doesn’t always take up this message.

Private convictions
These are convictions that I sincerely think I believe, but they turn out to be fickle. They seem real at the time, but when circumstances shift they are revealed to be hollow.

The night before Jesus was murdered, Peter made a bold statement, “Even if all fall away, I will not… Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” I’m sure he believed what he said; but when faced with the reality of suffering the day after, these beliefs turned out to be shallow.

Core convictions
These are what we really do believe & are revealed by our daily actions. For example, I really believe that if I touch a hot oven I will get burned. I really believe that if I exercise I will lose weight. I will really believe that if I sit on this computer chair, it won’t buckle underneath me.

And I guess faith is coming to believe with my whole body what I say I believe in my mind. Actions are the best indicator of my true beliefs; not my mouth. One of the reasons I find Jesus attractive is the consistency between what He said, what He thought & what He did. I want to be like that.

So let’s return to that annoying question that most of you couldn’t be bothered or where too scared to pause and ponder, “What do you really believe and what do you only think you’re supposed to believe?”

(Adapted from John Ortberg’s book “Faith & Doubt”)

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