Do you believe?
I ask myself that question so often. You are standing on the line between trusting what your eyes see and your mind works out and trusting in Words on a page and the mysterious push of the Holy Spirit. Do you cross over to the other side? Do you believe?
I just read The Believers by Zoe Heller. I’m afraid I can’t really recommend it because the language is so bad, but one character, Rosa, interested me. She’s a twentysomething girl raised in an atheist family with a Jewish background. Though the rest of her family mocks her, she feels compelled to look closer at the Orthodox Jewish faith and take classes to learn more about traditional Jewish practice in current times. Obviously, it’s fictionalized, but the explanations the novel offers behind the traditions and rituals fascinated me.
It’s been two weeks since the last meeting of our year-long Old Testament Survey. I’m still processing the information and truths from this year and connecting the dots to the New Testament. We spent a lot of time talking about Jewish law, tradition, and history–some of the same things Rosa learned in the novel. I’ve never seen so clearly how those things are also part of my history as a Christian. (In fact, no teaching on the Bible has helped me understand my faith more than this study has.) In that sense, I feel a bond with historical Jews. But I also feel a deep sadness, particularly as I continue to read the New Testament, about the stark difference between our two faiths now. Our differences lie in the answer to the crucial question I started with: Do you believe? Do you believe in the Messiah’s coming, in His bold and gracious ministry, in His shocking death, in His remarkable resurrection, in His participation in and fulfillment of the Old Testament?
From my perspective on the other side of the Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection, it’s easy to fall into self-righteous thinking. How could they not see the Messiah? How couldn’t they recognize Him? I see the truth, I have the special insight of salvation.
And then I read Ephesians 2:11-22 and remember that at one time I was “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” And how did I make up that ground? I didn’t: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That doesn’t leave any room for pride.
To look closer at my everyday: How many breaths have I taken today? How many beats has my heart drummed? How many cars drove by me today without ramming into mine? How many floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes has His hand stayed today? How many whispers of providence have I ignored, failing to see and recognize the Messiah at work on my Friday? It’s not a surprise the Jews didn’t see the Messiah. I forget to look for, willfully ignore, or stay blind to Him multiple times a day.
Where does this leave me? In grace. Buried in, covered over, freed by, and believing in grace.