Updated: Mar 6, 2019
How much does it matter what you believe? What’s the worst that could happen if you believe the wrong thing?
Could me believing the wrong thing about God land me eternally in hell? I certainly thought so for a long time and there’s a lot of folks who think so.
"You have to believe in Jesus!"
Okay, but what does that even mean? Believe in Jesus? Like, believe he existed? Believe he was sinless? Believe he was God? Believe that he died to pay for sins and then rose from the dead?
And by belief, do we just mean being convinced of those things? Giving mental assent to those propositions?
If so, what’s the cut off? How many of those things do I need to be convinced of to avoid hell?
What if someone can’t be honestly convinced but still earnestly desires to have relationship with God?
What if someone doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand?
What if someone never hears about Jesus?
And if you say God gives grace in those cases, why doesn’t God give that same grace to everyone?
Jesus' primary call was to repent (change your mind, change the way you are thinking about God and His kingdom) and believe the good news - namely, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and its doors are wide open.
All are welcome in the kingdom.
All are loved with an unconditional, no-strings-attached kind of a love.
It’s news so good that it’s hard to believe. This is what it means to believe in Jesus. It means to actively trust what he reveals about God's disposition towards humanity. Towards you. To trust that God's love really is bigger than you think. That you really are safe in it.
God is more interested in your trust and participation than in your correct beliefs.
Until you trust that God’s got you even when you’re swimming in an ocean of uncertainty, you will not allow yourself to become curious. And in not becoming curious, you miss the thrill of the trust fall. The moment by moment dancing with God.
See, there are two postures you can take towards seeking the truth. Two ways we can come at this thing.
The first is that you want to know exactly what you need to do, exactly what you need to believe, or pray so that God will be kind to you and you can avoid going to the bad place. This kind of searching comes from a place of fear and the need to control.
If I just line up my mental furniture the right way, if I just do and say and believe the right things, then God will show me favor.
In other words, there is something you can do to earn God's favor.
This lie is as old as religion itself. Back in the day, it might not have been mental furniture that
earned you favor, it might have been sacrifices offered to an idol, or religious rituals to demonstrate devotion to God.
The basic lie is the same - you play a role in determining whether or not God loves you.
The other posture is one in which you realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn or lose God's favor. God already loves you unconditionally and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. This is a radically different way to view the world.
God doesn't operate on a points system.
All those things that you thought were earning you something weren't doing anything to change
God's mind about you.
This is very good news.
It doesn't depend on you.
His favor is unmerited, unconditional and unending.
From this posture, you can still search and question and rearrange the mental furniture, but now you're doing it from a place of joy, curiosity and trust. You will never have it all figured out. You will never have all the answers. And if you think you need to have all of them in order for God to treat you with kindness, you will suffer crippling anxiety.
I challenge and invite you to rest in God's love for you. Whoever you are. Wherever you are at on your journey. Regardless of what you believe.
The only thing that will stop you from experiencing God's love for you and living in it and from it, is your own refusal to trust it.
So, does it matter what you believe? Yeah of course. If it didn't matter, I wouldn't be writing to you right now. For example, if you believe that God's love for you is conditional, you will live a life of anxious striving. If you believe God is vindictive or stingy, you will likely be vindictive or stingy yourself.
Beliefs matter because they can shape the way we exist in and with the world. They shape the way that we relate to God, ourselves and others.
Beliefs matter, but they can't do anything to make God love you or to make Him stop.
For more on this, I recommend checking out The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our Correct Beliefs by Pete Enns.