Why do you believe what you believe?
The words hung in the air as our youth small group members searched our brains for an answer that would satisfy such an unfair question. Seven of us sat, wedged into preschool Sunday school chairs at a low table that some of the teens in our group had sat in when they were preschoolers.
The playing field was leveled. Students and youth group leaders were equally stumped.
Because things have happened that can’t be explained by anything other than God, offered one. Because it’s what I’ve always believed, said another. I grew up learning about God; I don’t know any different, agreed someone else.
I nodded. These things were true of me, too, more or less. Because I just do. Because I choose to believe. Because of what Jesus did for us. Because God said these things, and I believe him. It’s truth. It’s in my gut, my heart, my mind. Because at some point I took a leap of faith (there’s no other way to describe it) and I believe that Jesus died on the cross to atone for my sins and that God made this plan and I’m a part of it and I know he’s there. I just do. I know Jesus did this for us. For me.
By faith we are saved. Not by what we have done, or what we can see. By faith. A friend of mine once told me that she would believe in God if she saw all the things happen that God said happened. If she had proof with her eyes that he is who he says he is. Somehow reading about it isn’t enough. I weakly appealed to her heart with my own experience. I just couldn’t explain well enough to get her to see why I believe, how I got to that leap of faith point. I couldn’t explain myself because it wasn’t me who gave me the faith. It was God. I chose to believe, then he did the rest.
Without faith the story of Jesus dying on the cross is just a tragic story, and God is just an idea created by humans to keep each other in line. Right and wrong and truth and lies are arbitrary, able to be interchanged according to the social climate. It seems crazy to believe in some all-powerful being having a hand in the world’s affairs. Why live according to some concept of eternity that no one can see? There’s an explanation for every one of these questions that works to unravel faith in what God has done for us.
And don’t even get me started on how Jesus managed to be human and God and Spirit in one. I. Don’t. Know.
The fact is that I believe. Faith in God holds my beliefs intact. I’ve had enough years of interacting with God to know that this isn’t just some whim. As proof, I see churches and people who work to spread the Good News about Jesus and read enough about how God works in the world that can’t be explained by anything else.
People may say that I’m fooling myself, that I am just another pawn in some ancient mind-numbing movement that gets people to pledge loyalty to a belief system that has no current significance, just another cog in another money-making machine. My mind has adapted to conform to a belief system that lulls me into a sense of false security and hope. It’s the only thing that keeps most people from hurling themselves off the nearest bridge.
Now, I can be a cynic, but even that’s a little dark for me.
I believe that just as God created us individually, he gave us faith the same way. I can only explain faith the way I’ve experienced it; I can only offer proof in what makes sense to me. I can’t hold my faith in my hands as an object to show others that it is real, just as God doesn’t present himself on earth wearing a nametag, offering trips back in time to meet Abraham and Moses and to watch Jesus die on the cross. I can’t tell you how to have faith. All I can tell you is how I came to have faith.
That’s all I can offer. I’m so thankful that God can offer so much more.
The faith of millions is your work.
Thank you for what you have done for all of us.