Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 36-39
There have been a multitude of people who say they are motivated by their faith to engage in actions I often find incomprehensible. Donald Trump states that he reflects a deep Presbyterian faith. Kim Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses because she is “obeying God’s law.” And then there is the outrageous Westboro “church” that protests at funerals, targeting broken-hearted people with their venom and scorn.
Such claims to Christianity make me cringe. I shake my head and say, “That isn’t what I believe. I’m not that kind of Christian.” On the other hand, I refuse to describe myself with a negative or by saying what I am not. Instead I want to consider what I do believe. What kind of Christian am I?
This reminds me of the final paper I had to complete in seminary so many years ago. As a prerequisite to graduation, each of us was required to write our personal “credo” as we attempted to describe and define what we believe.
No matter what faith (or other) tradition you follow, this is a good exercise. It can be helpful to try to articulate what is most important to you – what are your values? What core beliefs define your life? What guides your actions?
So here is my working list. While God may stay the same yesterday, today, and forever, my understanding of God changes and evolves as I wend my way through life (I’m avoiding the phrases “grow older” or “age”). Based on what I know and have experienced up to this point, this is the kind of Christian I yearn and endeavor to be every day.
I am a Christian who…
- Believes it is all about love. God loves us – all of us, always, unconditionally, with forgiveness and mercy and the opportunity for new life. We are asked to share that love with others.
- Thinks there is more than one way to know God. I recently saw a bumper sticker that declares, “Prays well with others.” If we could do that, it would solve a lot of problems.
- Believes God is the God of second chances. God is always ready to forgive, help dust us off, get us back on our feet, and encourage us to try again.
- Believes we break God’s heart regularly – when we exclude people, when we judge others based on their skin color, when we dismiss people of other cultures, traditions, and religions. I believe God loves us anyway and continually offers us opportunities to learn, grow, and change.
- Discovers God while I write in my journal, when I go on walks, when I listen to others ponder their faith, when I take time to read and reflect. God is always there and it is my loss when I feel too busy to notice.
- Is wary of anyone who claims to absolutely know the will of God. People who think they have all the answers make me nervous. If anyone can clearly describe God without doubt or reservation, I suspect that is not God.
- Believes in prayer, even when I don’t completely understand it. I don’t know why some prayers seem to go unanswered or why the answer is no. But I have witnessed the power of prayer and believe that praying for one another is one of the greatest gifts we can offer.
- Still has a lot of questions. I don’t know why heartbreakingly bad things happen to perfectly nice people. I am humbled by the grief I have encountered in people’s lives and also in awe by the acts of kindness, love, and compassion I have witnessed.
In the end, I rely on the words of Jesus
- Love God
- Love your neighbor
- Love yourself
Simple words that take a lifetime (and more) to live.
What do you believe?