Tell me what difference it makes that you believe

In 1997 — in what would be one of her final times in the pulpit — Dr. Verna Dozier challenged those gathered at the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Summit in Cincinnati with these words: “Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what difference it makes that you believe.” The very first charge of the “call to a holy Lent” in our prayer book is the call to self-examination — and today is a great day ask ourselves the question Dr. Dozier posed all those years ago in that Cincinnati sermon: What difference am I making because I believe?

And as we consider that question, consider also the important distinction Marcus Borg taught about the difference between what we believe and what we belove as we live out our faith in the world. And imagine how different the world might be if we spent less time separating over arguments about who has the belief part “right” and more time uniting to act on the belove part together.

Being Christian is not very much about believing in the sense of believing the right things, even though the notion that it is about believing a set of teachings or doctrines is widespread. That is a relatively recent distortion of Christianity. The English words “believe” and “belove” are related. What we believe is what we belove. Faith therefore is about beloving God.

In the modern period, we have suffered an extraordinary reduction the meaning of “believing.” We have reduced it and turned it into “propositional believing” – believing a particular set of statements of claims to be true.

The premodern meanings of “faith” generate a relational understanding of the Christian life. At the center of the Christian life are two relationships that are ultimately one. The first relationship is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, life, force, mind and strength.” The second relationship, “like it,” is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Christian life is as simple and challenging as this: to love God and to love that which God loves.

This is the central meaning of faith. Given the premodern meaning of “believe,” to believe in God is to belove God. Faith is about beloving God and all that God beloves. The Christian life is about beloving God and all that God beloves. Faith is our love for God. Faith is the way of the heart.

Marcus Borg

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