Friday, 31 January 2014

How do you explain what you believe?

Lectionary Readings for Feb. 9, 2014. Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 112:1-9, 1 Corithians 2:1-16, Matt 5:13-20
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

What would you say if someone asked what you believe?  I asked this question in a discussion group recently, and we all felt a bit awkward. "Who is asking the question?" "Where do I start?" and "Do I even know how I would articulate the answer to myself?"

Some churches push their people to have an eloquent 'testimony' ready for when they are asked what they believe. They may even have the "steps to lead someone to Christ" memorized. Our church doesn't do this. We don't care for formulaic responses, and we don't want to give the impression that we have the whole truth or all the answers. This humble approach, however, can leave us with the problem that we have no idea how to share our faith verbally. Not good.

In 1 Cor. 2, Paul shares his faith, and he says he doesn't do it very well. "I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom..."

Those of us without a memorized faith speech understand the trembling! Paul emphasizes that it's not the polished delivery, the fancy words, or the well-argued points that make the difference. God does. "...your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." I find this immensely encouraging. I don't have to have perfect words, I don't have to second guess my ability, I don't have to be highly educated. I have to trust God.

Having said that, we are not excused from being equipped to verbally share our faith. When someone asks what I believe, I want to be able to respond, so I do need to think about this. Another encouragement from Paul is that it is okay (maybe even best) to start very simply. Paul reduced his initial message to "Jesus Christ and him crucified." He simply says he believes in Jesus. That's a great place to start. Jesus loves me, this I know.

Of course, later on Paul does get deeper. Verses 6-16 get into some fancy wisdom discussions, and that's fine-not many of us are willing to stay in the very simple place. There are lots of pastors and scholars willing to get into the more chewy parts of the discussion, but that's not required, especially at the beginning. The point is not to worry, but to trust that God adds the necessary understanding and power to our fumbling attempts. If someone asks me what I believe, I am fully capable of starting simply! Perhaps then, in later conversation, we'll go deeper.

The Matthew scripture reminds us that we need to be true to who God says we are. "You are the salt of the earth." If that's true, we have to look like it, sound like it, and taste like it! Part of being a "salty" Jesus-follower is being able to share when someone asks what I believe. This week, I've been challenged to rethink what I would say if/when I am asked about my beliefs. How would you respond?

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