Cap's Corner: Do you believe in God? The answer isn't easy

by Cap McIlnay

I love our “Bible Belt” geographical setting. I love it for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we are very comfortable – at least many of us are – to be blunt and talk about our religion and our faith openly.

This persistence to simply ask personal questions of faith to each other – and to view this as legitimate conversation, though vexing to some – is not a bad thing. At least, not always. Is it a very personal question? Yes. But here in the Bible Belt, religion has become such an integral part of our culture and society that, in many cases, the question of church or faith is asked within the first few minutes of meeting someone new. Of course, as a pastor this is more true for me: After all, it is my job and my calling.

I was thinking about the question “Do you believe in God?” The answer, or answers, were not that easy. Let me explain. If you believe in the ultimate being, this also means that you believe in the ultimate moral being/authority, and what would that look like? I mean, if you really and truly believe in God, how does that work in your everyday life?

What I am asking is, where is the evidence? If you truly and fully believe in God, wouldn’t you do your best to be the best version of you? And do so on a regular basis?

Where does one start? How does one start? The answer is that it starts with you. Jesus tells us that we are to first work out the plank in our own eye before we try to fix the speck in someone else’s eye. This means we have to do the hard work of looking at our own selves. We need to take inventory of our own sins, our own weaknesses, and our own darkness. This is a painful and humbling experience, one that should be done on a regular basis, but it is so worth the effort.

Once you have done the hard work of looking in the mirror and seeing your own faults, do something about those faults. Don’t compare yourself to Jesus – it's an impossible feat. Don’t compare yourself to a great teacher, preacher, or anyone else for that matter. No, compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and become a better version of yourself today. This is a life-time struggle – a marathon without a finish line.

As you do this, you will discover a greater tendency to act upon the divine spark within you that responds to opportunities that confront you to make a better you. As you get better, both morally and ethically, you will be contributing to making a better world around you. This is seeking truth with courage and humility, and reacting to that truth with the highest moral and ethical settings that you have at that time. In doing so, you become an active participant for a better future.

This is not an easy one-time thing to do. It is difficult. It takes strength and courage, and it needs to be done again and again. The benefits far outweigh the pain of doing this, and it comes down to the search for the truth in you, your faith, and how you live out your life.

Right now, in our society, it seems that we have lost the ability to contend with opposing views in a civil way. We allow our emotions to dictate the narrative, even though emotions don’t care about facts. It has become easier to hate than to listen, and we would rather be “right” than to seek what is right.

Somewhere, somehow, we forgot that it was okay to be contentious and argumentative, even with our faith. One of the greatest strengths in my marriage is that my wife does NOT always agree with me. I need her to point out weaknesses in my arguments, thoughts, or theology, and she needs mine. Of course, we don’t do this in a belittling way, but with humility and love.

So, we should be contentious to ourselves in order to find the truth in ourselves, to become that better version of ourselves. However, if you only do the hard work for your own improvement, what gain is that? Sure, you have become a better person, but to what end? To whose benefit is it? Yes, your hard work can improve your world, and make it better, but the focus is still set on you.

If you do the hard work of seeking the truth in your faith as well, it shifts the focus from you – a narcissistic improvement – and refocuses itself into an improved Christian who has the ability help bring the Kingdom of God here on earth.

“Do you believe in God?” is not such a simple question because the answer is not in words; it is in a lifestyle, one that is always trying to improve itself. So, do you? Do you believe in God? Your actions and your life will answer that question.