When I was in high school, a rather uptight classmate called me a heathen because of my “ungodly” attire. I proved him right by laughing in his face. I realize now, of course, that he didn’t mean heathen; he meant infidel. A heathen is strange or uncivilized, while an infidel is an unbeliever. They aren’t actually synonymous, though I’ve misused them as such for years. Regardless, this poor fellow was hitting me with what he considered to be the ultimate insult, and the Lord reminded me of my belittling response.
My one work is to believe, but I ever underestimate how much my belief matters. In fact, I feel like I’m just starting to comprehend how important it is.
For if God did not spare the natural branches [because of unbelief], neither will He spare you [if you are guilty of the same offense].
Romans 11:21 Amplified
That’s Paul telling newly saved Gentiles not to get cocky about unbelieving Jews. If He didn’t spare His chosen people because of their unbelief, why would He spare us of the same thing? Paul isn’t preaching on a street corner to infidels here; he’s talking to Christians and warning them that unbelief results in being “pruned” off the vine. “So do not become proud and conceited, but rather stand in awe and be reverently afraid.”
It matters. The Amplified Bible always defines “believe” as “trusts in, clings to, relies on.” That’s a lot more than just saying the words “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” But I usually say the words and walk away. I don’t do the “work” to believe.
When you trust someone, it evidences in a relationship. When you cling to someone, other people notice. And when you rely on someone, YOU notice. I relied on cigarettes and I am keenly aware of their absence. I wish I could say that I am as quick to notice when I step out of the Holy Spirit and leave God’s presence to chase my own thoughts or go my own way.
The Latin roots of the word “infidel” are “unbelieving” and “unfaithful.” I never really understood the connection between the two, but it’s growing clearer by the day. I rely on and cling to and trust what/who I LOVE. I was “faithful” to cigarettes for fifteen years – I “believed” that I needed them. My belief is planted by my choice and nurtured by my love (my commitment).
I am completely and totally responsible for what I believe and in whom I believe. This is frightening, because I am “grafted in” or “pruned away” based on my belief. And it’s enormously exhilarating, because it means that I am not some victim, adrift and helplessly carried by the current of my life. I choose where I plant my belief, and my life turns on that.
And even those others [the fallen branches, Jews], if they do not persist in [clinging to] their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
Romans 11:23 Amplified