This morning I read an interesting rant directed against men. While the post certainly had an element of "tongue in cheek", the overall tone was pretty-much serious, and the thesis was grounded in the generalization that "Men" behave in certain, unacceptable, ways simply because they are men!
I laughed, and came up with a lighthearted response. But the thought also gave me pause, so I will credit the original author with setting useful thought-sequences in motion. The blanket condemnation and the consequent gender-based indictment caused me to think about how acutely (for better or worse) presuppositions effect the way that we interact with the world, and about how critical our foundational beliefs become when we think, speak and act.
In other words, what we believe profoundly affects the manner in which we live.
I think that Jesus understood this better than anyone else in history.
- Here, by way of a brief aside, I'll voice my opinion that Jesus did not come into this world preloaded with infinite knowledge and abilities - kind of a "GOD-version7.7". Instead, it's my opinion that Jesus had the opportunity - and the responsibility - to live and learn and grow and develop with the same reality-based constraints that we all have to contend with.
Jesus understood how belief dramatically affects everything else. That's why he was constantly asking the question, and parsed it again in the scripture we're looking at today. Jesus challenged his friends to believe that God literally inhabited him, and that God "does his works" in and through the life he was living amongst his friends.
One of the best - and most accurate - definitions of salvation is this - "Participating in the work of God". Jesus challenged the disciples to believe, so that they too could participate in the work God is up to.
So there Jesus is, laying out what is important in the last days before he is killed by the people his radical ideas threaten, and he tries to make his friends understand that they will never "see the Father" in the way that they are imagining God and think they need to experience God.
God, Jesus points out, is best understood and experienced in terms of allowing God's work to take up residence in us, and then to believe, and - consequently - to live.
That's the Jesus imperative. And it's a good word to conclude the first week of Lent.
Peace - and belief - DEREK