Last week a man stopped me in the Forsyth Walmart. I was scooting along happily in one of those new motorized shopping carts they provide for us handicapped customers.
“Dr. C,” he said politely, “I read your columns every Sunday and I’ve got a question.”
“Good,” I said, “that’s exactly why I write them.”
“No, I don’t mean a question about what you wrote; it’s a question about what you haven’t written. I think I know what you don’t believe but what is it you do believe?”
Great question. Here’s a few of my favorite beliefs:
1. I believe when I love other people (my neighbor) I’m loving God. Matthew’s gospel has Jesus saying the second commandment is “homoia” to the first (Matt. 22:38). Some people don’t want to translate the Greek word “homoia” as identical but prefer a softer version: “it’s kinda like.” I don’t think so. I think Jesus was saying, “OK, you want to love God? Here’s how you do it: love that person you despise.” It’s not “kinda like” loving God; it is loving God. But it’s so hard to do — as he found out when dealing with some hypocritical Pharisees, that “brood of vipers” (Matt. 4:7).
2. I believe I must exclude favoritism. Jesus welcomed everybody: the prostitutes, the homeless, the hated tax collectors and the unclean Samaritans. Not only did he welcome them into his group of friends — he ate dinner with them. I find this difficult. I have never invited a homeless man to join my family for dinner, or a young hooded gang-member. But I believe Jesus would do this.
3. I believe I must serve other people. Jesus said: I am among you as one who serves, (Luke 22:24) and he acted like it. He wasn’t arrogant and self-serving like I was many times when I was vice president of a large firm. Jesus was the boss of his small group of followers but maintained the attitude of a listener and a fellow traveler. If the story of the wedding celebration in John’s gospel is somewhat close to history, Jesus saved the host of the party from unforgiveable embarrassment, and he did it without grandstanding and chest pounding. But if you’re the boss, how do you give the credit to your people?
4. I believe I must forgive everyone for everything. I believe Jesus meant this when he told Peter to forgive 70 times seven times, and I believe Jesus tried to do this. However, he failed that day when he lost his temper and chased the money changers out of the Temple. He should have taken a deep breath and said, “OK, you’re just doing the job the Chief Priest hired you to do and I forgive you.” But he didn’t; he blew it. He found out first hand just how hard this “forgiving thing” can be. He was my kind of guy.
5. I believe I must be a sucker. Jesus was a sucker for bullies. “Turn the other cheek,” he said. I’ve never done that. But I can see it works in the long run. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. made it the theme of their passive resistance movements which are going strong to this day. And it worked for Jesus. Someday I hope I can do this, too.
I don’t believe every word in the Bible must be taken literally and followed unthinkingly, like “women must be silent in church.” (1Cor. 14:34). And I don’t believe the Nicene Creed provides my complete Christian identity. I do believe however, I can find the “way,” in the Bible if I dig deep enough.
But this “way” can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes I’m tempted to join my two online critics and just “believe on the Lord Jesus” and forget these five unpopular beliefs.
Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.