Friday, December 13, 2013

Active Faith vs. Active Belief

There is a common annoyance for me as a missionary serving in the south. You see, I meet a great deal of people who say that they believe in God and have faith in him. However, when it comes to getting them to actually act on the faith that they claim to have by inviting them to read scriptures or go to church, you might as well be kicking a two week old seal carcass into action. I think a lot of people, especially the church going variety, tend to misunderstand what it means to believe in something vs. to actually have faith in something. The difference being that faith requires action in order to be faith. Otherwise it is simply belief, and in today's society of constant turmoil, simple belief isn't good enough. 

Pictured: Active Belief

It is easy enough to say that you believe in something. There's not a doubt in my mind that anyone who says they believe in God really does believe in him. (If you're in the south, that's just about everybody.) They'll spend all day telling you how their belief in God has helped them become better people and how they know that he's watching out for them. Granted, you'll never see these people set foot in a church on Sunday, but gosh darn it they BELIEVE! In the end, however, these people lack real faith. Belief is the prerequisite of faith and without belief it impossible for anyone to have faith. Again we're brought to the conclusion that in order for belief to become faith, it requires action because it is through our actions that we are able to qualify for the blessings of Christ's Atonement. 

How is it that our actions can help us receive blessings from God, you ask? Let's take a look at the concept of repentance for example. By definition it is an effort to turn from things we do that are contrary to the laws of God and make a commitment to follow his laws more fully in the future. In return for our effort, we are blessed with greater sensitivity to the spirit and freedom from guilt over past mistakes as we receive a remission of our sins. It's that simple. Repentance isn't repentance unless you make the required effort to change your heathen ways and make changes in life in order to not go to hell. The heretic remains a heretic if he sits on his tucas all day and believes that he'll be saved because Christ suffered for his sins. Compared to the sinner that becomes a saint who exercises his faith in the atonement by changing his sinful ways, because he believes that Christ suffered for his sins. 

It's a simple fact that God will not do for man what man is perfectly capable of doing for himself. I imagine that's the goal of any parent; their kids learn to do things on their own, to solve problems on their own, to become agents for themselves. The kids that don't learn this tend to be the ones that cause their parents to exclaim in desperation "Get out of the house, you're thirty years old!" They are generally known as lazy folks and are a burden on everyone they come in contact with. 

Little wonder, then, that the greatest blessings that we seek often take the most effort. For every sacrifice we make, God promises to make up the difference, but first we have to make the sacrifice. He loves us, he really does, but I also imagine that he gets terribly frustrated with those of his children that expect hand-outs and then bewail and curse everything when their every whim isn't met. Kinda like the new dad that watches his two year old writhe on the floor in a screaming fit because the kid can't have cookies any time he wishes. 

In the end, we all must believe. It's where everyone must start out on the road to salvation. However, in order for it to become faith and in order to strengthen the faith that we already have, me must, as Nike puts it: Just do it. We do what it takes to maintain the faith by getting up and doing what God has asked us to do. 

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