Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Power of Belief for Good and Harm

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” ~John 8:34-36 (NRSV).

This little section in the gospel of John (8:31-38) could be titled, “The truth sets free—this is how disciples are known—they discern and follow the truth.”


I had a man once try and convince me that electricians, because they are exposed to live electricity, are predisposed to mental illness. His belief was the electricity does funny things to the human mind. His logic had taken one case, perhaps two, together with a misheard research report on the radio news, and extrapolated that out to apply to all electricians. Could you imagine this guy’s approach to the next electrician he would meet, perhaps at a party or at a sporting event?

Like this man, however, we all hold a certain portion of untrue beliefs.

What Jesus is telling us is, if we root out that false belief we will no longer be slave to that portion of sin. We will no longer have untrue predisposed viewpoints that interrupt our rapport with people. Our prejudices will be sorted. We will take people at face value, loving them for who they are and how they present.

Accountable for What We Believe

If we’re given the capacity to see, hear, and perceive the truth, the Lord expects us to honour that truth by believing it. There is a requirement to diligently note such truth and apply it by challenging our false beliefs.

This is mainly manifest in the watchful observance of opinion, for opinion is where false belief runs rampant. We are free to form opinions, but those same opinions can enslave us to sin if they are bounded in any form of falsity.

In the context of Jesus’ above truth we choose to be an outlier to the extent of our false belief, just as we choose to be a core part of the family—to be true disciples—when we take on views that are checked in truth.

By an alliance with the truth we prove our humility in obeying God; by rejecting truth we prove our pride against God.

Remaining Ever Aware

As sinful creatures, we are given to false belief in a flash. In conversation, to please people, we smile and nod and generate positive gestures, facial expressions, and encouraging body language—to love people. Validating false belief in others, though, by approving everything they say, leads us to a slippery slide.

Remaining ever aware of what we hear and see, and therefore sense, is vital.

The only protection against the adoption of false beliefs is ongoing vigilance—checking everything we hear and see and perceive for signs of truth.


Just as the truth will set us free, lies will bind us. False beliefs are the biggest danger to living the power of the Christian existence. Our task: expose and purge; in the light of Jesus’ truth.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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