For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16
This is still the best of all the Christian credos ever written. It cuts away customs and traditions and gives us the essential message of our faith. But what does it mean to believe? Is that really all that’s necessary to be saved?
The answer is an unequivocal, resounding yes! Believing is all that is needed for salvation. Believe that God sent Jesus to us because he loves us. Believe that God, loving us, does not want us to die, but to live. Believe what Jesus told us during his life and ministry and by his death. Know that Jesus is the genuine article, the real Messiah, come to give us life. That’s all there is to it.
But, once we’ve gained life eternal for ourselves, is that enough? If we truly believe that Jesus is Messiah, then we must live the way he taught us to live. He showed us how to live in his own deeds and ministry. He told us how to live through parables and sermons. He taught us that people are more important than creeds, traditions, organizations, or reputations. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk. And then he said that we’d do greater things than that. He responded to human need and he expects us to do the same. Our belief in him does not create the needs of those around us, nor the opportunities we have everyday to meet those needs. But it does create the reason for us to do so.
It has been said, “seeing is believing.” For the Christian, it is the other way around – believing is seeing. Believing in Jesus is seeing the love of God poured out to us. Believing is seeing the power of God spent to redeem and restore our lives. It is seeing our brothers and sisters the way Jesus saw them, as infinitely precious and worthy of our time and our efforts on their behalf. The effort may be as simple as listening to someone who needs to talk, or as complex as raising money to help the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy. It may be as straightforward as sharing the Gospel with someone, or as subtle as using actions rather than words to witness.
Actions are the outward sign of belief. Your good works are a way for me to know that you believe. Your good works cannot take the place of your belief. Mine cannot win eternal life for me. And in the end, it doesn’t matter whether I think you believe, or whether you know I believe. So, outward action is optional when the question comes down to “how shall I be saved?” But, once we have received the gift that God so freely gives us through Jesus, our next step is to say, “here am I Lord, send me.”