May 26, 2016

Belief versus Faith

"Do not fear, only believe." --Gospel of Mark 5:36

by Roberta Flack
Listen Here
... Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
He spent a long time
Watching from a lonely wooden tower

And when He knew for certain
That only drowning men could see Him
He said, "All men shall be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"

But He Himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
He was forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

But you wanna travel with Him
And you wanna travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust Him
For He's touched your perfect body with His mind

Suzanne takes you down
To the place by the river
She's wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army's counters

And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbor
And she shows you where to look
Amid the garbage and the flowers...

Be not afraid; come follow me; do not fear, only believe--
these are the central philosophies of the Christ. Jesus, we learn in the Bible, makes them among his central points. Fear must be overcome with faith firmly planted in its place. While fear may be a valuable response as part of a self-preservation instinct, it can also be destructive, paralyzing, controlling us, preventing our living life as the Spirit might direct, unresponsive to free will. The mature person seeks to learn what is in his and others best interest, and endeavors towards those aims. He or she avoids what is contrary and stands against those ills as they may be able.

Frequently the Bible stories serve as imperatives;
they prod, define and refine the mind of the reader, so that we may become believers. In this particular story, Jesus recounts his journey to the foreign community of the Gerasenes, who were not Israelites. While there he heals the mind of a deeply troubled man (Mark 5:19-20). He then implores his followers to overlook those peoples' faults and shortcomings, and urges them to bring the message of hope and belief to them.
Continue with the story. Read Mark chapter 5 verses 21-43.

While many will doubt the words they read of a long ago account, faith asks us to "have ears" as the ancient Israelite did, and to hear the message within the story because it is a parable. Today the emotional state of anxiety and fearfulness seem ever more prevalent.
Many of us seek treatment for anxiety and stress in a doctors office with pills and other medication; while these preparations often do effectively tamp down or mask our sensory impulses towards anxiety and fearfulness, the calm of our own mind though the peace the Christ seeks to impart upon us, is not part of the medical equation. Thus we are less free and more under the influence of the drug or other medication.

While some may require medication and rightly so, there is a degree of calm, a direction for all which may be the fruit of the Spirit descended into our lives. It is the nature of the Spirit to come calling upon all, but not by any force or coercion; Spirit knocks. We either answer or we don't and if not, the Spirit is free and it flies. It will not force its way upon anyone.The Christ brings a message of the possibility of freedom from fear: "Do not be afraid, I am with you always."

What is belief, what is faith? We hear the phrase, 'just have faith!' So what is it? Most of us take for granted that religion is a set or system of beliefs; it is to many strictly concerned with beliefs and the adherence to those beliefs. This however is a rather narrow view; the Spirit comes to free us, not entangle us upon a set of dictum.
Many of the world's religions are not characterized primarily by beliefs at all, but by practice, about appropriate behaviors. So it happens that faith is about relationships, and belief is about ways of doing and being.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of religion,
all religion, no religion in particular, is that as a facet of life, it instills a set of beliefs very successfully in many without ever bringing a person to faith. Many are familiar with the story, "I attended as a child, but fell away..."
Since both belief and faith formation are important in the spiritual life, one without the other does not often succeed. As persons of faith, we engage and refine our beliefs within relationships, within communities. So the teaching, "love one another," becomes real; it becomes the imperative in faith.

No comments: