This post was building the last few weeks. It took a video circulated by the Huffington Post to finally make it happen. They took verses from the Bible, most out of context, and quizzed people on the street to see if they thought the verses came from it or the Quran. This was supposed to make some grand point and found its way passed around social media fairly quickly.
We are in the age of attack on faith.
Belief systems have faltered at times throughout history. When governments or people grab hold of the divine and use it towards their own ends, darkness and persecution results. From the first nomadic tribes to the Romans, Crusades, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. When a charismatic leader rises up, they will gather the uninformed and insecure to form followers. You get things like the Holocaust, Jonestown, and David Koresh. You get individuals willing to strap bombs to their chests and push the ignition switch.
You get a major New York tabloid publishing a headline saying God Will Not Fix This.
In times of chaos and tragedy, the tide and pointing fingers go against God.
Yet there are still reasons to believe.
Faith provides a moral compass, it sends the line between dark and light, good and evil. It provides meaning in tragedy, for if you remove God from the equation than it nullifies all the feelings of our righteous indignation. What value are we to this world in our eighty or so years of existence if there is nothing on the flipside? We place ourselves on a plane of morality because we understand the larger picture. We feel we are right because divinity drew the map at creation.
Hear me out.
In the midst of this, there are good things emerging. In a news release last week, more than 70,000 Muslim clerics banded together to denounce ISIS. There are still churches working to make change in their communities. I think of the heroes of faith, back to Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Ghandi and others that set their feet in a belief system working to change the world for the better.
I can tell you what Jesus did say in the Bible.
He said to love your neighbor. He said the meek were blessed. He called to those in pain and suffering to come and find rest. He turned the establishment of the day on its head by showing the true meaning of faith.
Tonight I want you to know it is okay to believe. It is okay to pray before your meals and pass your faith onto your kids. It is okay to attend a community of faith, be socially active, support those in need and love your neighbors. Pray in your dorm room, read your Bible, download You Version’s Bible app on your phone and start a reading plan. If you are single, pray about the ideal person for you. Know that there is a plan for your life, meaning in your struggle, hope in your suffering, peace in the chaos, and hope for tomorrow.
If you don’t believe, that is okay too. The Jesus I follow tells me to love as he first loved me. Know that a genuine community of faith in your area is always open to you, whether or not you ever walk through the doors. Know that you matter. Your words, feelings, and opinions count. Your questions deserve to be answered and the answers are out there.
Pastor Erwin McManus, head of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, said in one of his books that “Today’s atheists were yesterday’s children of the church.” I believe he’s right and I know the doors are still open. The hurt, scars, and pain may be deep, but scars become maps to newer and greater stories.
We all need newer and greater stories.