A Christian stares back at the man in the mirror as the barber cuts his or her hair and casually asks, “What religion are you?” “Oh, Lutheran,” is a reply. “Church of Christ,” some. “Mormon,” others. "Baptist." Methodist." "Jehovah's Witness." "Catholic." You name it.
A priest in his mid-sixties sits at his desk with his head in his hands. The sunlight bounces off the Spanish mountains. It brightens up the room as the heat of the afternoon brings warmth to the little study behind the vicarage. But there is no trace of light in the heart of San Manuel Bueno, and he weeps upon his papers. He knows that his soul is dark and cold. He does not even believe in God.
Wait, what? Didn't you say priest? Can that even happen?
More than one would think.
In that short story, the main character was Don Manuel, an unbeliever who nevertheless wished to preserve his flock from the painful implications of the faithlessness that stalked him. He would dive into the books to present a flawless dissertation of God stuff, leaving his congregation breathless, deeply touched and maybe even changed. He spent time in the village going from home to home, blessing the families, working in their gardens, or just loving on the children. The people adored him. But there was that one pesky problem ... that tragic paradox of his own truth.
Hebrews describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” What do YOU think faith is? You already know that faith IS a risk any way you look at it, but many people back out when faced with this truth. Consider the Syro-Phoenician woman ... that lady who had been miserable because she was hemorrhaging for twelve long years? She practically tore through the crowds just to barely touch Jesus. No backing out THERE. I wonder sometimes if I ignore my pain while I SHOULD be tearing through the crowds. Before making that forever-remembered definition of faith, the Hebrew writer talked about a plan. A plan that involved a reminder about what it is to put our faith in nothingbut a grasp at the robes of Jesus.
"This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be my people. They won’t go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called GOD IN FIVE EASY LESSONS. They’ll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean. By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust."
(Hebrews 8: 6-13, The Message)
An old plan gathering dust ... love that imagery. I don't know about you, but sometimes that plan creeps into my daily ME-ness, and I forget about the results of the woman clutching onto His garments. Risk, faith, risk, results. It's only in believing in the latter can we hold any system of belief.
It seems, much like conversations with a hairdresser, a lot of today's believers have whittled their belief system down to a creed, a book, a teaching. One wonders if this means that we have discontinued having real faith in God and have chosen a religion or a group of believers and then subsequently placed Him in it ... instead of the other way around.
If a true drink from the cup of Jesus is our “Holy Grail,” may we only taste the essence of discipleship when we approach the keeper, the wounded king (in some grail stories called the fisher king). We may have, like Indiana Jones in the 3rd Raiders movie, found our way through to our grail by the knowledge we may have gained. But even more important, may we instead ask that wounded king, “What are you going through?” ... and not cower away when he tells us his answer. We must truly believe that in His hands through ours, there is the power to heal hearts.
Don Manuel knew plenty about Jesus and he was a good, good person. He probably could have written a treatise about God in Five Easy Lessons, but that is where it ended. And it tore him apart. If someone casually asks me what my faith is or what my religion is or what do I believe ... I think I'm going to just answer with, "Jesus." And you ... you are going to make real attempts to find out what the scripture says about God instead of simply trusting anything that you hear from a religious or spiritual person ... including a blog, right?Personal attempts to know Jesus and being His scripture scout are essential, necessary, and crucial. Even the title of this little space on the internet, The Scripture Scout, is about YOU, not me. But ...
Are you still waiting for God? The reality of your life may be that you are, and that is indeed okay ... but it is also okay to consider that He just may have been waiting for you a lot longer. SO. I hope you'll pardon that little alter call. I'm just saying that, in short, this post only has the title because we don't need a list. We don't need FIVE EASY LESSONS to understand God. We just need Jesus.