John Bressler-080511Listen to John Bressler read his column.
I've had this book on my shelf for at least 30 years, and I am always amazed at how timeless it has been. The author is good old Hans Kung, with an umlaut, a once revered Catholic theologian who fell out of grace for making some higher-ups feel uncomfortable.
Why did he write this particular book? "It is for those who want to know what being a Christian really means, for those who do not believe, for those who are insecure, at a loss and skeptical." I believe his target audience is the world at large. His book was not written because he thinks he is a good Christian but because he thinks being a Christian is a good thing.
I knew a pastor of a whopper of a church in south Florida who taught that if anyone ever has a doubt, isn't absolutely certain or wavers just a tad in his or her belief, then he or she is not a Christian. His theology sits in the same pew with those who believe there is only one way to pray, only one church or one denomination that holds the key to the kingdom, or one act of piety that seals the contract with God.
I am not challenging any individual's belief, but I am recognizing the fact that most, if not all, Christians go through a lifetime of questions, heartaches and fears when it comes to a struggle with faith. Check out Hebrews 11: l, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
I know that the first response to that passage might just be, "Huh? Hoped for? Not seen?" This seems incomplete and questionable. The next response might just be, "I must have something solid, provable, undeniable and unchallenged. If even one microscopic detail is debatable, belief is out of the question!"
I call on Paul to speak gently to me and help me with this seemingly overwhelming problem. He speaks to me in Galatians 5, "For freedom Christ has set you free!" That means I am as free to believe as I am free to reject. It means I may not have absolutely certain mathematical formulas, relics, theological certainties or a required vision like the one requested by Philip in Matthew 14, "Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied!" Please realize that Philip did not say, "Me" or "I."
Our trust and faith is not blind, but is an "understanding, absolute trust and absolute certainty." We see God's sign, word and deed in Jesus Christ. We cannot see God's sign, word and deed in the worldly promises of power, control, protection, politics, stardom or domination.
Faith is present even in absolute darkness. A young man whose future was certain suffering and death wrote, "I believe in the sun, even if it does not shine. I believe in love, even if I do not feel it. I believe in God, even if I do not see Him."
Who is a Christian? It is one who, in the face of good or evil, never gives up his or her absolute trust in Jesus Christ. It is one who couples his or her faith with acceptance of self, acceptance of others and acceptance of the life lived and the task given.
Sometimes, I feel like the father in the Gospel of Mark, who said to Jesus, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Then I think, "I'm okay, I'm normal. Let's get on living."
God, help me be the man I want to be. Today is the day You have made. Let me rejoice and be glad in it!