He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves
and take up their cross
and follow me.”
When Jesus called the first disciples, he never asked them about what they believed. He invited them to follow him. He was very clear that this following was dangerous business. It involved the denial of self, and the carrying of the cross.
The first Christians were called followers of the way. He had taught them a way of living and they were trying to follow it.
Eventually they were also called believers, because they believed that he was the Christ, and therefore were committed to follow in his way. As Marcus Borg points out, to believe, in the biblical sense, is to give one’s heart. It is not an intellectual exercise, it is an existential commitment.
Now, two thousand years later, modern Christians have too often reduced Christianity to a belief system. In his book, “Saving Jesus from the Church,” Robin Meyers notes that the Sermon on the Mount was all about what we should do and how we should live. It said nothing about what we should believe. But three hundred years later, the Nicene Creed was all about belief, and it said nothing about what we should do.
We need to restore the balance. We are called to be followers first and believers second.
But the belief question is still important.
If we really do give our hearts, then our bodies will follow.
My friend Keith Sanzen, who leads our on line Bible Study and teaches our Junior High Class and has become our resident biblical scholar, has drafted a creed that serves as a great starting point for examining our faith.
My Creed – draft
I believe in God; the ground of being, creator, redeemer and sustainer of life.
I believe in Jesus as the Christ, the one in whom the Word of God was uniquely revealed.
I believe Christian life is a response to grace found in the revelation of the cross and the teachings of Jesus.
I believe that different people understand the revelation of Christ in different ways.
I believe that any understanding of Christ that is grounded in sincere love and acceptance of others is a valid expression of Christian discipleship.
I believe that love and compassion are more important than religious doctrine, traditions and creeds.
I believe that Jesus taught, with authority of God, that we should love both our neighbor and our enemy.
I believe we should seek justice, mercy and dignity for all people; for all people are children of God regardless of gender, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, loyalty or past deeds.
I believe that some actions bring negative consequences but no one deserves to have pain or suffering inflicted upon them.
I believe we all share in the breath of God.
In sharing this common breath I believe that medical care, shelter, food and water should be readily available to all regardless of their income or nationality.
I believe in living simply so that I have more to share with others in need.
I believe this world and this life is a gift of God and not a place from which we need to escape.
We need to show that we are thankful for what we have received by not destroying ourselves or the world we live in.
I believe in a God who loves us and constantly calls us home.
I believe that, upon death, we enter fully into the presence of God.
I believe that, regardless of gender, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, loyalty or past deeds, God will act with justice, mercy and love.
I believe that everyone is compatible with God.
I believe that the world can look dark, horrible and bleak but I believe a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
I will strive to order my life so there might be less suffering than there was the day before.
I will walk humbly with my God and be forgiving of others for I know I fall short in the ideals of God and all that is required of me.
Though I will always strive for understanding and truth, there is much I do not understand and, in time, my understanding will change.