From “Faith is Not a Dirty Word”
I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I wanted to approach my first blog posting in this category. You see, my posts about my faith will only partly be directed toward other believers. We’re in the same boat (ideologically speaking), and for the most part, the God peeps will get me. It’s the people in other boats I want to reach, too. Not only is reaching out to people what we Christians are supposed to be doing (and we’re kinda bad at it sometimes), but…I’ve been in some of those other boats. And from those boats, I know what Christians can sound like.
Who’s John? And what was he doing up at that hour?
“Jesus loves you!”
Get some new material, guys. *eyeroll*
Dude, what does that even mean?
Christians can sound completely out of touch sometimes, especially if they were born on the God Boat. I do understand where they’re coming from (now) – there’s this whole “be in the world but not of the world” ideal. What is meant by that is, we belong to Heaven and strive to live that way despite being immersed in a hostile environment. Think “in the sea but not of the sea.” (Author/speaker J. Warner Wallace has a good article about this worldview here.) But the thing is, the other people here who are of the world aren’t connecting with the God folks…and if the God folks can’t make connections with people in other boats, then their words are vapors.
Caution: Rabbit Hole
Quick rabbit hole to the past. I used to be an atheist. I was an atheist for a rather long time, too. Even as a kid I never bought into the whole “religion” thing. I was all bitter and haughty about it. Foolishness! I softened a bit as I matured, though, acknowledging that I didn’t know everything, and at around age 30 I discovered the term agnostic. Not too long after that, my then-fiancé (now hubbins) helped lead me to Christ only a few weeks before we were married. Phenomenal experience.
Anyway, I’m sharing this because it’s relevant. I know what it’s like to sit in other boats and listen to the people in the God boat hollering at us across the water. They can sound sooo…umm…okay, I’ll just come out and say it: dumb. They do! We do, guuuys, we sound dumb sometimes. We tend to use outdated, unconventional language and walk around with Kool-Aid grins on our faces.
I know what we sound like…which is why that bit of history is relevant.
Okay, I’m done.
So I’m not gonna spout a bunch of Bible verses at you. That’s not what I’m about. Eventually, I’ll share with you my stories, anecdotes, and little average-day observations. But today, I wanna talk about…
Are ya ready? Ready for the proof??
<Bzzt!> Sorry! No proof. Because there isn’t any. At least, not anymore…not absolute, empirical proof. And there won’t be. (Not until the Second Coming, anyway, but I’ll leave that for the theologians.) If you’re the type who’s decided you simply cannot believe in a God who won’t give you “proof of life” (so to speak) then you will be disappointed.
I’ll to give you two reasons why he’s not gonna give you that proof.
Absolute proof revokes free will and destroys faith.
That deserves repeating: absolute proof revokes free will and destroys faith.
Did I make you scratch something? Suddenly itchy? Good, that means you’re thinking. Here, allow me to illustrate: “I left the light on downstairs.”
Now, do you believe me? I suppose that hinges on certain variables, but let’s say we’re good buds and I have no reason to lie. Okay, Deidre left the light on. You have exercised your free will in choosing to believe me, and believing me means you have faith in me, in our relationship, and in the information I’ve shared.
Say you doubt, though. “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Okay, I show you a picture on my smartphone. Is that proof? NOPE. This is a point that is becoming increasingly important in this digital age. Indirect proof like this can be tampered with and thus cannot be considered infallible evidence. At this point, you must still make an active choice to believe me.
So you call up a neighbor. “Dude, look out your window. Did Deidre leave the light on again?” “Yup! It’s on alright. I can see it from here.” Now what you have is corroborating evidence. The case is much stronger, but this point is anecdotal…you still must decide whether to believe me.
FINALLY, YOU WALK DOWNSTAIRS…
And there it is, blazing away and running up the electric bill. You finally have empirical PROOF that I did indeed leave the light on. However, now that you know the absolute truth, you no longer have the free will to choose to believe me, nor can you have – or need to have – faith in what I’ve told you. That proof revoked your free will and destroyed the opportunity to demonstrate faith in me. You no longer need to believe.
(At this point, you may *still* choose not to believe the light is on, but that’s where you cross over into obstinate denial. I’ll give an example of this in a moment.)
God gave us free will. He wants us to choose to seek him and love him. Love is a choice. Hang on, let me clarify that…agape love is a choice. Not the emotion-based romantic love, friendly love, or familial love, but the righteous agape (uh-GAH-pay) love. That is one godly step beyond what we call unconditional. That’s where you don’t have to like ‘em to love on ‘em; where you pray for the people against you and maintain hope for their redemption; where you “love your neighbor as yourself” and truly expect nothing in return…that’s agape.
(“Thaaaat’s uh-gah-payyyy…” Oh come on, you totally sang that.)
God also wants us to have faith in him. Faith is trust. Don’t you want the people you love to trust you? Well, he wants us to trust him all the more…to believe him and trust that he will keep his promises. (And to date he has, for the record.)
WAIT! Wa-wa-wait, don’t stop now! Okay, I know from experience how that tends to turn some people off, but this is history. So, if you go back to the earlier biblical records (the Bible is chock full of legit history), you’ll see that we humans had all sorts of actual, documented, corroborated evidence of God. Look at all the unbelievable interactions he had with us directly! Angels poofing in and out, crazy supernatural events, ordinary people performing wild miracles in his name…c’mon, he sent us freaking PROPHETS. He was a very hands-on parent for a long time. But despite all this physical proof we were being presented with, people still wouldn’t believe it!
Here’s a quick example of irrefutable evidence…and the rejection of it. (Okay, this is a little Bible stuff, but I’ll go easy, promise.) So God got upset and told Egypt he was gonna smite ‘em. He told Egypt exactly how he was going to smite ‘em. He smote ‘em. Then he PARTED A SEA to help his people escape. Moses then says, “Okay guys, now that we’re safe I’m gonna go spend a little face time with the Big Buy. Back in a day or two.” (I’m paraphrasing.) But by the time Moses came back (toting the original Ten Commandments btw), the people had gotten bored, lost interest, and had already gone back to worshiping their sparkly baby cow! Moses was all, “OMG YOU GUYS!” *rage, rage, righteous tantrum*
And that’s your obstinate denial.
[Aside: There are likely still miraculous events and interactions occurring even today, but such interactions would be anecdotal, subject to interpretation, and quashed by the haters. Nothing more will be added to biblical canon. The Word that’s been given to us – the collective library we call The Holy Bible – is what God wants us to build our faith upon.]
The point of all that is to say, even with undeniable proof plopped into our laps, we humans will doubt. It has happened time and time again. So eventually God said, *le sigh* “Man, you guys are thick. Alright, it’s time to do the Savior thing. 3…2…1! Ready or not, here I come!” (I’m summarizing.)
So, God grew himself his own little human to drive around – Jesus (or Yeshua) – and came down here to our dirty, tense little planet. Jesus provided the ultimate proof, the ultimate sacrifice, and the ultimate forgiveness. New deal. Done and done. THAT is why God has been working so much more quietly the past two thousand years. Today, it is up to us to exercise those two beautiful gifts of free will and faith. We get to choose to be with him. He is a gentleman, after all…he’s not going to force himself on us.
Okay, I like metaphors, so I’ll wrap up by going back to my metaphor about the boats. (Almost done, you’ve been a real trooper.)
Think about what kind of boat you’re in. Do you even truly know? Have you really checked it for leaks? Because I’ll be frank with you, nearly all the boats bobbing around out there will eventually sink.
Or maybe you’re not in a boat at all! Maybe you’re hanging off the side of a boat, unwilling to fully climb into it. You’re cold, you’re hungry, your fingers and toes are doing the raisin thing, but you don’t have the strength (or conviction) to climb. Or, maybe you’re trying to swim for it. While sometimes you’ve gotta take the plunge to make a change, you can only tread water for so long before exhaustion overtakes you and you sink into the abyss. ABYSS. Oh, and friendly FYI, there are creatures in the water who want to play. (Hint: it ain’t dolphins and sea otters.)
There are a lot of people hanging on to the side of the God Boat afraid to climb in. I know some…and I’ve been one. Sometimes folks are still tethered to another boat; sometimes they’ve got people trying to pull them back off; sometimes their arms are full of old baggage they’re too afraid to let go of. (And don’t forget the creepy creatures in the water who want to eat yo–I mean, “play.”) The thing is, there are hands dangling off this boat waiting to help people out of the water! Lifelines everywhere! Lifesavers at the ready! Understand, we’re all flawed here – we’ve each got our own ideas of how to sail, and we squabble like siblings – but we’ve got blankets and snacks and we truly want to help. We want to help.
So…what kind of boat are you in?
Thanks for reading. And God bless.
[I am by no means a theologian, for the record. I’m just an everyday, flawed little Christian who enjoys apologetics and exploration of faith. My metaphors and illustrations aren’t perfect, and there are certainly rabbit holes I’ve left unexplored, but if this helps a single person move one step closer to God — a single step — then I have accomplished my mission with this article. Feel free to engage and discuss! Just be kind to one another.]