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What Is Belief?

Beth Demme Blog Leave a Comment

What do you think it means when Jesus says:

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 

John 6:47-50

“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes.”

What does Jesus mean? What does it mean to BELIEVE?

On one level it means to accept something as true. That’s a good dictionary definition.

Many Christians faithfully recite the Apostles’ Creed, summarizing the foundational Christian claims. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth… I believe in Jesus Christ… I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

I believe.

And yet, I don’t think that’s what Jesus means here in John 6.  Jesus isn’t demanding that people agree to a creed or some specific doctrine.

Instead of demanding anything, I think Jesus is offering something.

In a word, Jesus is offering: RELATIONSHIP.

In effect, he is saying, “very truly, I tell you, whoever is in relationship with me has eternal life.”

People as varied as Pete Enns and Oswald Chambers have pointed out that when we reduce our faith to a set of beliefs, we run the risk of believing in our beliefs instead of actually believing in God.

We put ourselves in a corner where we can be so tightly wrapped up in what we think we know about God that we don’t even need God anymore. Our certainty–our beliefs—sustain us. We know what we believe and we’re … comfortable with it.

Jesus is offering us something more than that. Jesus is offering us relationship. Jesus, Our Daily Bread, is inviting us into community with our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God invites us to participate in what Father Richard Rohr has called a “divine dance of loving and being loved.”

In some ways, this is harder than a Creed, isn’t it? Real relationship is harder than accepting a set of boiled-down belief statements.

We believe in God the Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. So what? We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit. So what? As James says, “even demons believe” (James 2:19; see also Luke 10:17).

The difference is, they aren’t in relationship with God.

What does “belief” mean to you? Do you think it’s possible for your beliefs about God to get in the way of your relationship with God? Tell me about it in the comments, in an email, or on Facebook.

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