Christ is risen!
What does it mean to “believe in” something? I confess most of my life I’ve just taken for granted that I knew, and everyone around me knew, what that meant. I was wrong.
The word “believe” means so much more than just agreeing that certain ideas are correct. The Greek word used in the New Testament for believe is πιστεύω (pistevo). It comes from the noun πίστη, which means “faith.” That’s why the Symbol of the Faith begins with “Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θεόν” I believe in one God…
But the Hebrew roots for this Greek concept reach even deeper than mere mental assent to certain agreed-upon ideas. No, to “believe” in the New Testament way is to be so thoroughly convinced of a truth that it affects how you live. Short of this life-changing belief, do you really believe what you say you believe?
Look at our lesson today in John 12:36-47:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”
Jesus confronts His hearers AND us with some powerful beliefs. He is The Light. He is The Way. He is The Truth. This is more than just a rhetorical claim to get attention. It is the statement of fact that is necessary for us to embrace SO THAT we don’t stumble in the darkness of our own self-centeredness.
And that requires a deeper embrace of belief than goes beyond merely agreeing with certain ideas. Belief, as understood in the scriptures is more than mere mental assent. In fact, it would be nonsense to anyone hearing the Lord say “believe” and then have someone assume He meant just thinking correctly. The word “believe” always insists on more.
It goes to the heart of our behavior, and how we choose to live our lives every day. No longer is it enough for us to be “Sunday Only” Christians. We have to graduate from the kindergarten of faith to a certain place that insists our Faith informs our choices, our actions, and our priorities. Anything less, and the question will always nag us: “Do I really believe this?” How you live helps you struggle with that question.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. We are called “the Faithful” after all. But it does require attentiveness to our own temptations of a thoughtless way of living. And it asks us to realize that when we believe in Jesus Christ, we also declare our belief in the Father and the Spirit. And it requires a humility that embraces a lifestyle of repentance daily so that I never fall into the trap of mere lip-service to the Faith.
On this “leavetaking” of the Feast of Pascha, know that your life, in light of the conquering of death, has a great potential to show this day and age the power of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. So, do you believe? Are you Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. Though You went down into the tomb, You destroyed Hades’ power, and You rose the victor, Christ God, saying to the myrrh-bearing women, “Hail!” and granting peace to Your disciples, You who raise up the fallen. Amen! Christ is risen!