Whoever believes IN HIM

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Jake Kircher

“Thanks for clarifying what you believe about [X]. God knows we couldn’t have anyone on staff who believed differently.”

I sat in my office with my boss slightly stunned. Did he just indirectly threaten my job because of the growing questions I was asking? What was even more shocking was that the topic we were discussing wasn’t even a major theological topic. It wasn’t something covered in the church’s statement of faith. It wasn’t even something that was talked about much within the life of the church. Yet somehow, it was a topic that if I didn’t believe exactly right, as defined by my boss, my livelihood would be put in jeopardy?

Over the last few years, I’ve been doing a significant amount of reading and studying a varying array of scholars and Christian leaders about many theological topics. The biggest conclusion I’ve come to? There is a wide, vast world of belief out there and it’s not easy to break down these beliefs into “right” and “wrong.” The fact is, I was finding God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-seeking, prayerful and thoughtful people on both sides of different beliefs, and everything in the middle.

I believe we as Christians have, often unconsciously, taken Jesus’ claim that “whoever believes IN HIM shall not perish but have eternal life,” and added all sorts of other beliefs into that sentence.  Adam and Eve, Revelation, baptism, and more. I’m not suggesting these aren’t important topics! But as the list grows, it often forces us to look at someone who believes differently than us and condemn or judge their eternal salvation, calling into question the very God-given identity within them. In an attempt to “follow God,” we have created an idol of having the right beliefs about several things, many of which are honestly debatable.

The biggest thing missing from most faith communities today, both conservative and liberal, is thought diversity. Instead, emphasis is placed on comfort and surrounding ourselves with people who think and believe the same things as we do. The problem with that is that in that kind of environment, no one grows. More so, we don’t really love. (See Luke 6:32) Real growth and true love only gets fleshed out in the context of diversity, differences and challenge.

Following Christ and believing IN him doesn’t mean that we tell everyone what they should believe ABOUT any number of things. It means that we build loving relationships with others who are IN Christ and we talk and pray and discuss and debate ABOUT what it really means and looks like to live in Christ. This is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, “that all [believers] would be one…then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Again, what is the emphasis on what the world would know? The right answers to every sub-point? No. That Jesus was sent and that the world is loved.

As we invest in this next generation; as we teach them how to study Scripture and ask deeper questions about life and faith, we must teach them how to respect differences and how to have loving dialogue that challenges us all to be more like Christ. We must help teenagers understand the paradox that we live in as far as finitely knowing the unknowable, infinite God. Don’t just teach the teens you work with the right answers. Instead do everything in your power to help them be lifelong learners with The Answer and the amazingly, diverse and beautiful community of others committed to the same thing.