On various occasions I have had people in my life ask me, “Do you really believe that?” Usually prior to my answer they have concluded that I do. Yet what makes them wonder? Not often is it because they have allowed me to argue my point or debate the issue, because, let’s face it, most people want to avoid that as much as discussing their political views. Instead, they quietly, from a distance, take note of what I believe through the way I live my life – never asking me a thing.
I think we all can relate. Living our beliefs can often be uncomfortable. I don’t remember Jesus saying, “I have come so that you will have belief.” Rather, I am pretty sure Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life.” This is just one of the fundamental errors I have come to recognize in modern Christianity.
Actually, we all have birthed many false or preconceived ideas about Jesus without even knowing it. One of the biggest errors is that many people define Christianity almost solely by belief. Ask any Christian denomination, and they will be quick to tell you what they believe Christianity is and is not. However, I don’t think belief was ever meant to be an end.
John 20:31 says, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” By believing, we may have life? Now, I am not saying belief is not important, it just isn’t the end. Instead, belief is a portal by which we enter the life Jesus intended.
In its simplest form, the word disciple means to live like I do. Jesus told his disciples to teach people to live his way. Here enters the problem for most of us. You and I must admit we fail to do this in our faith communities.
We do not train for living but for indoctrination. It is all about learning “the system” and having the “right” answer. Where is the life?
Throughout the years, this has caused me great frustration – knowing a lot about Jesus, but seemingly not able to find him anywhere. Sadly, this is a consistent testimony of many people you and I know.
Remember the first Christians? They weren’t called Christians at all; they were called “The Way” (Acts 9:2). You and I tend to romanticize the early church; however, it was a complex and rather messy time. Thousands were being converted, without official books or teachers, meaning almost every early Christian could easily have been discipling 50 people! They loved one another in such a way that the wealthy believers sold their possessions to help the poor believers.
Yet, how often do we find ourselves arguing about what they taught and believed? If we want to know what they believed, we should start by examining how they lived. Their own neighbors got anxious and tried to shut them down by stoning them, throwing them in prison, robbing them, and even killing them. Not over just doctrine but rather their lifestyle.
We don’t realize how much their neighbors were also in awe of them. Why? Because these early Christians rejoiced in spite of all the persecution. Can you imagine giving someone a beating and they turn around and say, “Yeah, bring it on!”
What are you and I to do with that? These early Christians were not made known by mere doctrines, but by the radical way they lived their lives. People do not seem to have a problem with beliefs until others start living them out loud in the world.
Maybe you and I should take some time to examine how we live. Do you think we would find our neighbors in awe of our lives? We might, if we worked at demonstrating who Jesus is to our neighbors and helping them learn how to follow him instead of being quick to spout out our peculiar doctrines and judgments.
You and I might just find ourselves opening our homes to the needy, giving to the poor, sharing our possessions with the less fortunate, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people, much like the early Christians (Acts 2:42-47).
The questions now being addressed would be remarkably different and far more powerful and effective than a debate about what we believe. In the end, we might just find the “life” that Jesus came to give us.