“Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship.” — Brennan Manning
“When I take a knee, I am facing the flag with my full body, staring straight into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom — because I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.” — Megan Rapinoe
“I believe alien life is quite common in the universe although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.” — Stephen Hawking
“I believe that the greatest form of prayer is praise to God.” — Billy Graham
“I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Belief. Faith. Conviction. There are many words that we use to define the things we hold to be true, to be right, to be important. The above quotes are examples of the variety of ways people declare what they believe.
Religion is a word that tries to describe the behaviors, practices, world views, texts, morals, ethics, holy places and times, and structures that connect humans to things transcendent, supernatural, spiritual.
The word religion, from the Latin religare, literally means to connect or bind. It is where we get the word ligament, the connective tissue between bones.
So it can be argued that when we say, “I believe,” we are connecting to those things beyond ourselves that guide us, inspire us and challenge us.
Our beliefs guide us. You’ve heard the sayings, “Practice what you preach,” or “Walk the talk.” They imply that we can recognize when someone says they believe something, but their behavior doesn’t affirm their words. Words and actions go hand in hand.
“But if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?” (1 John 4:20)
Our beliefs guide us. And we cannot hide our beliefs behind our words.
Our beliefs inspire us. When I was ordained, a friend of mine gave me a print of Picasso’s Don Quixote. It reminds me of the song “The Impossible Dream,” from the musical “Man of La Mancha” that says, “To fight for the right without question or pause to be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause.” My belief in Jesus’ example of self giving love for others inspires me to do the same. Even when it’s hard.
Our beliefs challenge us. Did I mention that the things that guide me and inspire me are often really hard to do? Case and point. Jesus said we need to love even our enemies. I’ve never really thought of people that have hurt me as enemies, but they certainly have said and done things to me that have hurt. And it seems to me that the way to loving them is to begin by forgiving them.
I believe the ultimate act of love is forgiveness. It’s what God did. God loved us enough to forgive us even when we weren’t asking to be forgiven. That’s something difficult to get my head around sometimes — that God loves you and me, that we didn’t earn that love, and that we cannot lose that love. God’s love is what guides me, inspires me, challenges me.
I never thought about this until recently when, reading a book called “The Good and Beautiful God,” I realized that the uniqueness of Jesus’ message, his good news, is we don’t earn God’s love. We don’t earn our way to eternal life. Not sure about that? Read the story of the Prodigal Son. Anyway, that is what I believe.
And you? What do you believe?
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.