A Matter of Trust
There’s a lot of talk these days about the decline of religion in our culture. All kinds of theories abound ranging from the effects this decline is having on society due to the technological advances of our day to the superseding of the individual over the group, be that family, neighborhood, or even the church. Each of these as well as many others causes play a role in this decline.
Although it is very hard to discern the exact causes, one thing we can know for sure: religious belief has always been—up until the modern era – the placing of one’s trust in the god they follow. The Mayans of the ancient world, for example, looked to their gods for the fertility and prosperity that would allow their society to not only survive but to thrive. But this reliance on God is not consigned to distant religions or the ancient past. I was struck by the faith of the Kenyan father who spoke to me during my trip to Africa 25 years ago. While showing me his garden, he said to me matter-of-factly: “If God sends rain then we will eat this year. If he does not, we aren’t sure if we will eat.” In both of these examples, religious belief is far from just a set of beliefs one holds to be true. It was clearly a dependence, a matter of trust.
Our modern, rational way of thinking leads us into an analysis of what one holds to be truthful and factual. But this kind of belief is not a belief in God, it is belief about God. If we define faith as holding the right beliefs about God, then the most clear and powerful declaration of “faith” given in the Gospels was made by a demon, who in Mark 5:7 calls Jesus the “Son of the Most High God”.
This is why I think the central issue of the decline in religion happens not on the societal level but in the heart itself. Everyone has beliefs about the world they see and even the divine they do not. But fewer and fewer seem to have a belief in the divine. Belief in God implies a trusting dependence on Him. This dependence guides how we view our life and situation and how much hope we either have or are missing. Belief in God means we trust Him, and therefore follow His ways. When we mess up and don’t, we come to Him with sorrow and regret—not indifference and justification.
The New Church Year which begins on September 1 is another opportunity for renewal. Let’s each examine ourselves and not stop with belief about God, but belief in God—and not merely in His existence. A belief in God places Him rightfully as our Lord, the One Whom we serve, the One Whom we obey, and the One in Whom we trust.
For those of us that are parents (or grandparents and Godparents), let’s also examine the education we provide our children. Of course we need to raise them up with the beliefs about God, but we also need to teach—and more importantly model—belief in God. The Church provides opportunities through Church School, SOYO, Wednesday Night Family Night, and other spiritual education and edification opportunities both for us and our children. Let’s recognize the value these opportunities offer us as we try to instill our young ones with more than just beliefs about God.
With a societal shift away from religion, we must seize every opportunity to raise our children with the kind of belief/trust in God to withstand all the forces that seek to pull them away from a life of faith. Living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given anyone, and it’s offered to all. Let’s recognize the priceless value of this gift, and live lives that make clear we have more than just beliefs about God but a belief/trust in God.