What we believe matters.
Now, I am a pastor, so when I say that, you probably immediately assume I mean what we believe as a matter of religious faith matters, and of course, I mean that, but I want to start on a more basic level what we believe about the world, what we hold to be true really matters.
If I believe that it is very important to be on time, I will always leave early and I will get annoyed when people are late. I will order my life so that I can be places just a little early to avoid being late.
An alternate belief would be that it is important to be where you are. These people will tend to get caught up in the current task, and then arrive late for the next appointment because they were caught up where they were. However, when you are with them, they seldom feel anxious about getting to their next appointment.
Similarly, if someone believes a certain brand or product is useful, they will continue to buy it. This, by the way, is why advertisers continue to spend billions of dollars to get their message to us, because if they can influence what we believe, our behavior will change.
Beliefs help guide us, and make us consistent in our actions. A person who believes in nothing could literally do anything from moment to moment. Of course, no one actually believes in nothing we all have some beliefs, even if it is simply, “Me first” or “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
These beliefs about how the world works guide how we react to new situations. They also, at times, need to change if you have always been a K-mart shopper, and now most of the K-marts in Minnesota are closing, your options are to increase your trips to Iowa or find a new place to shop! Of course, even when beliefs need to change, it can still be tough.
This last week, we celebrated the baptism of our Lord, and we heard that John the Baptizer is a strange character he wears camel’s hair, eats locusts and wild honey, and lives out in the wilderness. He stands in the Jordan River baptizing and proclaiming revolution, proclaiming that the One was coming that would change everything.
He was calling even the good religious folk of his day to re-examine what they believed in light of what God was doing now. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to him, he was not too impressed with them. He wanted them to be challenged by God, and the Word of God, instead of seeking power and control of the message. John’s message, and his belief in it, led him to be beheaded by Herod.
This power of belief was on display last week, as three terrorists acted out what they believed in the killing of 17 people, before they themselves died. They believed that in order to achieve their political and religious ends, any means were necessary, including terror and death. After a religion-based attack like this, I often hear a condemnation of all belief, because, they say, if something like this is the result of belief, we should get rid of it all.
I would disagree. All of us have faith a belief in something. It is really who and what you believe in that makes a big difference. The terrorists believed others had to die for their change, whereas John the Baptist believed that his message was so important, he would continue to proclaim it even if he had to die, which he did, for that belief.
John’s call is still one we must heed are we making ready the way of our Lord? Are our actions and beliefs ones that bring about the kingdom of God? If not, which beliefs or actions do we have to change?