B is for “Belief”

This is an entry in the “Acrostic Contemplations.”

“Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:24

“And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.” – Matt. 8:13

Belief in something implies that the something one believes in is not factual or, at the least, not observable. We don’t believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, we know it will since it has been observed to always do so. Of course, we still perceive it to “rise in the east” when others have demonstrated that it is, in fact, the Earth that rotates rather than the sun running its course through the sky. Regardless, this and all facts remain true whether we believe in them or not. It is not like Tinker Bell. The sun doesn’t cease to exist if we no longer believe in it, gravity operated long before Newton sketched out its mechanics.

“Just because you believe it doesn’t make it so.” True, but we must believe to act. We might not act, even if we believe, but if we do not have faith then we will not act. Today, in the United States, there are those who claim that we cannot trust our electoral system. I don’t mean reasoned debates about the use of an Electoral College, I mean questioning the basic system by which your local school board is elected, your major, or governor. Whether they actually believe that the system is broken or not, the sowing of these seeds of doubt grow into weeds of apathy. “Why bother voting if my vote won’t count?” If you don’t believe, you will not act.

Peter walking on the water to Jesus.

I have not seen the risen Christ. Not even in my dreams. At least I don’t think so, because even though I often wake up remembering dreams, I cannot be sure of all of them. I certainly haven’t had any visions to speak of and yet I believe he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. That belief, that conviction, that faith leads me to act, leads me to live. That belief enables me to live. Sure, my mind is agile enough I could probably come up with some other construct to bind my wounds, support my broken frame, and allow me to limp along the way. The resurrection though…that changes how I view everything.

It would be disingenuous of me not to admit that my first thoughts go to Mack and the comfort and confidence that the belief in the resurrection gives me. The days would be truly dark if I did not believe that he is raised in strength, power, and imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42ff). More, that I too will join him, and my father and my grandfather and all those who have gone ahead of us. The belief in the resurrection, however, also moves me to act, every day. This world is full of suffering and injustice and it will always be with us. Yet the one who was raised from the dead calls us always to strive for justice and to bring comfort. More than that, however, the resurrection teaches us that this world is not all there is and that while we continue our work here and now, eventually God will make all things new.

I believe and that comforts and strengthen me; that belief leads me to act. And I unbelieve too. It is not doubt, it is unbelief (Mark 9:24). It is not questioning or being uncertain, those are actions, examinations of the question. I unbelieve. Too often belief is simply not present in me. The conviction and confidence to act is nowhere to be found. The father desired with all his being that his son should be healed. He had heard about this great healer and believed that he could cure his son, yet he also had the experience of life. Many had tried to heal him before with no success. Reality taught him not to believe, but faith brought action and his son’s healing.

We believe, help, O Lord, our unbelief.

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