One of my passions is to see people equipped with meaningful, life-engaging faith. This is faith that builds context and perspective to understand life's issues, a faith that brings maturity to our complete personhood as God's image-bearers. This is a faith which communicates simply and succinctly. It is a faith that interrupts life, not simply an “one-more-thing-to-do” add-on. Our culture has few examples of authentic faith. Most portraits of God leave an image of either a distant, irrelevant God, or a complete vacuum where “God” is nothing more than a social construct - one that enlightened people really don’t need.
If we were visited by aliens from another planet who had never heard of God how could we succinctly and authentically explain our faith? What would be the core ideas we would need to communicate? And if these are the core things ET would need to know then perhaps these are the same core truths upon which we build our life and worldview. ET isn’t coming, but we are surrounded by people every day whose lack of knowledge of the One true God essentially makes them aliens to the truth.
Here is our challenge: summarize our faith in a way that makes it easy to remember and easy to share. I came up with Nine Words. In these Nine Words I can easily remember the essential points of the Gospel, from creation to eternity.
In the beginning (3 words) - the first words in the Bible, these are the most important words! If God is not Creator then God cannot be Redeemer. Because this created order has a beginning (and by inference, some kind of ending) there is a reason it was created. If God is not Creator He cannot be King. The story of creation tells us who the Creator is and assures us of His authority over all of it even though it sometimes seems to be headed back into chaos.
Life is good (3 words) - When God created the world, He declared it good, and then "very good." This does not speak to the quality of His workmanship (although it was outstanding). Rather, "good" speaks to value and purpose. Life does have meaning, life does have value, life is good. Although we now live in a created order that is contaminated by sin and in constant rebellion against the Creator, the underlying purpose and value is still there. Despite the sorrow and injustices caused by sin, there is still meaning to life, hope in Christ, and redemption and reconciliation to God.
Our Father (2 words) - Jesus taught His disciples to pray, starting with these two simple words. They imply several things, especially that God is personal (i.e. He relates to us as a person, not just a spiritual energy force) and that we can have a relationship with Him (God can reconcile us to Himself). Thus, God is knowable, engaged and approachable, even as Creator and King.
Eternity (1 word) - The time-based reality in which we live is not the ultimate end. God exists before time and invites us to live with Him into eternity. Time is not a limit God experiences. Life is fleeting and eternity is waiting. We don't waste or despair time trying to get to eternity; life is for the living. We also recognize that everything is not as it appears. As Solomon said, life “under the sun” is temporary, but God’s eternal purposes are being accomplished. For that, through Christ, we have hope.
Obviously, this is just scratching the surface. But it does provide a structure that can guide a conversation toward the necessity and relevance of faith. Faith isn’t about religion. It is about what we believe is truly important - so important it provides structure to every life-decision we make. We all have something that is the object of our faith. It had better be something that surpasses all that is temporal, can give purpose, and offers an opportunity for relationship. Otherwise, what is the source of hope?
Those are my words; what are yours?