For several years now, I have tried to use the word “believe” only when I have been talking about God. This is tricky because practitioners of modern English rarely treat the word with that kind of discretion. Every once in a while, a conversation partner asks me some variation on the following question: “So, do you believe in _______?” Unless the fill-in-the-blank happens to be God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, I either ask for clarification or say “no,” which generally elicits a quizzical look and a raised eyebrow. Here’s an example. Other person: “So, do you believe in the Bible?” Me: “Um…what do you mean?” Other person: “Ya know, the Bible – do you believe in it?” Me: “You just asked the same question. Still don’t know what you mean.”
In the end, I find that I have to explain that I only use the word “believe” when talking about God. Then I tell them that of course I think the Bible is a real thing and that some very cool people who were in touch with God in a real and intimate way wrote the various pieces that comprise it. It’s tricky to reserve a word like “believe” for God because the word is so commonplace. But its commonness is a result of the word “believe” becoming watered down and losing its definition. Indeed, “believe” is somehow now synonymous with “think something is okay.” This week, we are going to explore the word “believe,” and work to reclaim some of its meaning and weight. In the verses from Genesis above, the word is powerful. Abram believes God, and this belief changes Abram’s life. Be conscious of the next time you say the word “believe”: does the context surrounding the word have the power to change yours?
[The LORD] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6)
Dear God, you have given me the gift of believing that you are present in my life. Help me to live that life in a manner that displays the joyful, generous, and welcoming affects of that presence; in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.