Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I call myself Christian, but what is the difference between me and an atheist, or an agnostic, or someone of another belief system? Am I saying that what defines me is my Christianity, my beliefs, or is my identity shaped by grace--the inexplicable, unfathomable, incomprehensible, overwhelming, life-changing and unearnable gift that isn't contained in any belief system? This grace is articulated by the Christian belief system, but other belief systems, acknowledge it as well, often as a shadowy mystery that cannot be contained in an explanation. It is pointed to by the billions of lives who say they aren't religious, but who hunger for God's love.
My point is that when those who are Christian describe themselves as "believers" and others as "unbelievers" they are pointing to a belief system as the defining difference.  It is often said as if there is some insider privilege.
Frankly, to separate people on the basis of believers and unbelievers strikes me as ridiculous, as if the belief system is what matters. And if the belief system is what matters then we are operating by religious works rather than grace. That is the opposite of the humility that grace endows. If we are to divide people between believers and unbelievers I prefer to speak of "those who know God loves them despite all that is unlovable" and "those who do not yet know God loves them unconditionally." This difference is entirely about something that has been revealed to us. It isn't about something that puts us in a better position with God since God loves "the world." My religious knowledge (belief system) is valuable to me, but it only points to the gift, it isn't the gift.
And in seeing the difference as between "knowing" and "not knowing" God's love, my living is focused on being loved in such a way that my life points to the unconditional love God has for others, not in converting them to a belief system.

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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