Friday, October 14, 2011

What is a True Believer?

What is a true believer? There are many Christians but how many are mature  believers? A professor at the Taegu Catholic University searches for answers in his article in the Bible & Life magazine. Why do we modify the word believer, he wants to know, with adjectives like true and mature? Is it because there are few who actually are true believers, mature believers?

What does it mean to be a believer? The word means one who believes, but what is important is 'what' and 'how' one believes. Many understand belief too narrowly, as meaning the acceptance of certain propositions. However, the professor says that is not what it means to a Christian. Christian belief is a personal acceptance of Jesus not only intellectually but with the whole person, with the emotions, with the will, and with our actions. It is believing in Jesus, imitating Jesus, and living the Jesus life. Believing certain propositions is the foundation, but it doesn't stop there.

What we believe should be affirmed by the life we live. Believers should be reliving the life of Jesus, and when this is not understood, it makes for a narrow, intolerant Christian. One can't judge another person's internal spiritual life, but we can make judgements on how this belief is manifested in life.

Our writer feels that a major stumbling block keeping us from true belief can be found in our all-consuming concerns for personal and family well-being, concerns that can turn our belief into an egotistical, self-serving belief. The traditional Christianity is concerned for the welfare of others, and places a high value on sacrifice and service. Concern for the self is of course not excluded. However, many fall away from their faith life  by too exclusive an interest in self and secular matters.
Ideology is the other problem he deals with. Following the downfall of Communism, many other beliefs, religious and non-religious, have appeared on the social horizon. Sound ideologies are necessary if there is to be a vibrant society; they help us go in the right direction. But in our society, the values of community and sacrifice are disappearing, replaced by an overly aggressive competitive spirit in many areas of life; by the search for ever greater profits, without concern for the welfare of the consumer; and by a world-wide financial system that has become more interested in its casino-like potential for making huge personal and corporate profits than in facilitating the efficient operation of the marketplace. Only religion, the writer feels, will weaken this tendency. However, religious fundamentalists, in trying to protect religion from an increasingly secularized society have come up with their own ideology. Using rationalization as a tool to protect what they feel is their possession, they are degrading religion.

A person of belief, says the writer, is not one who speaks loudly about what he believes, nor one who has merely the external ways of a Christian. A person of belief is one who can  face the difficulties of life serenely, strengthened by the love that animates her life. She  doesn't fuss about her own pain but  can  commiserate with the pain of others. Isn't that what a true believing Christian is?                                                               


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