Following Jesus

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Following Jesus

I Believe: Don’t Force Faith

November 12, 2018 by

A long time ago, when I was young and confused, I was profoundly assisted by a sermon delivered by John Hinde, one of my pastors. The crux of his talk was based on the words of a German pastor, Christoph Blumhardt, on the subject of faith.

Although the age of faith is supposed to be long over, and we are supposed to be in the age of reason, faith is as powerful as ever, both in bad ways – inspiring wars, fueling the growth of extremism – but also in good ways – healing bodies and souls, restoring hope, saving marriages, and bringing reconciliation between individuals and groups.

But what is faith? Religions, churches, and denominations often ask their followers to repeat religious phrases in order to be “saved.” This can get us into dire straits of insincerity and languishing guilt; if there is a good God above why would he force us to be phony, to say more than we believe?

I don’t think that’s what is meant by faith. And Blumhardt concurs. It is not what God wants. Blumhardt maintained that instead of forcing ourselves to repeat things we don’t actually believe, we should stand firm on what we already know to be true. Then and only then, he says, we will be shown further realities.

As a young person wrestling with faith and belief, I was relieved and thrilled to hear this. We are made to be sincere, even if at times we come across as crude or just plain difficult to understand. It never pays to diverge from realness.

The other day I made myself a list of things that I needed to stay true to:

I believe in living decently, consistent in respect for others.
I believe in making an honest living, not running a business I am ashamed of.
I believe in not living beyond my means (for the sake of those who have less and for the sake of a healthy environment).
I believe in caring deeply for others, confronting bullies, and looking out for the most vulnerable.
I believe in freedom, not so much a political freedom, but the freedom of a humble heart that is ready to admit wrongs.
I believe in nonviolence, because even “justified” violence has mixed results.
I believe in joy, especially the kind that ambushes us and fills us though we don’t deserve it.

two jovial men

Go ahead; make your own list (even if it’s only mental) and start from there.

We are, after all, human beings, not parrots. Let’s be careful not to force others to say things they do not believe, but rather encourage them to hold to what they know, with faith that only needs to be as large as a mustard seed. For with encouragement, that seed can then sprout and grow.

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About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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