Has anyone ever used the “just” word on you? You think someone
is cute but are scared to death to talk to him or her. Then a well-meaning
friend says “Just go up and say ‘Hello!’” It’s
not just that easy. You are standing on the high dive gazing down from
what seems an infinite height above the water far below. Fear paralyzes
your legs. You can’t seem to move. Then the person behind you
says, “Just jump!” It’s not just that easy. It is
five minutes before the end of your work day and the office manager
stops by your desk and says, “I know it’s almost time to
go but I’ve got a mission critical job that needs to be done right
now. Here it is. Just make 7,000 copies of this report, collate them,
put them in binders and slide them under my door.” It’s
not just that easy.
In answer to the question “What does it mean to be a Christian?”
many today would probably answer, “Just believe in Jesus.”
There’s that word “just” again. And, like the previous
examples, there is far more to it than the superficial answer seems
to indicate. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the answers
Jesus gave to those inquiring about eternal life.
When one young man who was enriched with material possessions asked
about eternal life Jesus replied, “Go, sell everything you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come,
follow me.” (Mark 10:17-27) To a religious devotee asking about
eternal life Jesus told a story implying that his obstacle was giving
up deep-seated racial and religious prejudice (Luke 10:25-37). To another,
Jesus identified reluctance to become itinerant and dependant upon the
generosity of others as his obstacle to “just” believing
(Matthew 8:19, 20). Each answer Jesus gave about what it meant to “just
believe” was different in detail but identical in principle.
“Just believing” means a willingness to part with any attitude,
value, belief or behavior incompatible with God’s defined truths.
In the first three centuries A.D. when Rome dominated the world and
emperor worship was a legal mandate, there were no illusions on the
part of those who chose to “just believe” in Jesus that
doing so was supremely risky. It meant rejecting the worship of Caesar
and becoming subject to barbaric execution by fire, beast or gladiator.
Today in parts of the world where fundamentalistic Islam is practiced
a Muslim who chooses to “just believe” in Jesus knows they
may face death at the hands of relatives who believe it their religious
duty to kill family members who convert. I know. I’ve lived there.
To believe in Jesus in Sudan may mean having your village exterminated
by government forces hostile to Christianity. To believe in Jesus in
China may mean arrest, torture and death at the hands of government
While in other places believing in Jesus may mean death, in America
today “just believing” is in danger of meaning almost nothing.
There is a tendency in American Christianity towards teaching that salvation
is nothing more than mouthing the phrase “I believe in Jesus”
regardless of one’s allegiances, values or behavior. This trend
is certainly acceptable to the relativism that is becoming mainstream
in American culture. It is alien, however, to the ancient meaning of
“believing” reflected in Jesus’ politically incorrect
teaching that He alone is “the way [to the God of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob], the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).
Americans who hold to the ancient teachings of Jesus, rather than modern
revisions of them, are beginning to see a little more of the prejudice
and hatred that existed in ancient times. Recently a man in Canada was
convicted in court of violating a hate crimes law for doing nothing
more than printing an unmodified quote from the Bible, offensive to
mainstream culture, in a duly purchased newspaper advertisement. I suspect
that similar application of existing hate crimes legislation in the
United States is not far away.
While the consequences of truly believing in Jesus may seem severe,
the rewards far outweigh the risks. Choosing Jesus as the definer
of your values and behavior results in peace that surpasses all logic.
Becoming a prince or princess of the universe through the adoption
by God the Father of all who believe, endows a sense of identity and
wholeness no power or position on earth can equal. If this is of interest
to you, listen to a song written just a few days ago by St. Helena
resident, Dan Oliver. Download
it free of charge in mp3 format.