(Photo by Brook Ward: edited to black and white)
Everyone believes something, its part of being a cognoscente being. Then what is the purpose of the advertisement for Nike, besides the layers of social and political discourse implied by having Kaepernick as the focal point of the ad? The words themselves elicit the question of who is needing to believe in what? Are there people that are believing in nothing? I feel like there are so many more words that would better explain what Nike intended by "believe." What comes to my mind by only using the word believe are the words of James in 2:19 "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" (NIV).
Belief is easy, belief doesn't require anything of you. You can believe you are the greatest person in the world, but everyone knows you are just one of 7.6 billion people. You can believe that life is a bunch of random events with no real purpose, and out of your control which would mean life is utter chaos. You can even believe life has great purpose because God exists, but belief alone doesn't transform your life. Even the demons believe, and they don't even like God but they believe he exists. Which is more then some people these days. If you deny the existence of God than you are lowering yourself to below that of a demon who does believe. Maybe there is something demonic within atheism, that people have been bewitched by the devil, hoodwinked into denying their maker. If you don't believe in God though, those statements shouldn't offend you.
Belief is meaningless without action. Action is what brings forth the life of your belief. If you don't act on what you say you believe, then you are lying to yourself because your actual belief was demonstrated already in your action. James nailed it again in the previous verse 2:18 "Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds" (NLT). Belief with action is a demonstration of one’s faith.
This brings me to my last piece of information or rebuttal, James assumes the deeds that are done are good. It isn't enough to have belief and action, you have to have belief and action in something good. Any evil person can believe in something and act accordingly to an evil end. It will cost the evil person everything they have and they will step back and watch the world burn. It cannot be that simply giving up everything for your belief is the right thing in and of itself. Disconnected from a moral imperative of goodness, our action based off a twisted belief can cause destruction. Don't stand by and watch the world be consumed in flames.
It reminds me of what Paul said to the Corinthians, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV 84). Some scholars say this is surrendering the body to death as in martyrdom, it is done in vain if it is for pride's sake. Others say, and I agree, that it is a reference to the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Even if you give your life as an act of worship, a declaration of glory to God, without love it is meaningless. Loving God and loving others as you love yourself is the greatest of commandments.
"Everyone believes something. However, the righteous person will sacrifice everything they have for that which is good because they love the one whom goodness flows." That is a better mantra to live by. Don't just believe, and please don't be deceived either. Where can we find the source of that which is good? It's not in you and it isn't in any imperfect human, that's for sure. You must find where the best source of goodness is, place your faith and act upon those convictions. Without God, it is very difficult to find a meaningful good ideal that creates an unwavering faith that can be communicated across all cultures, people and time. Test these ideals of goodness. Test these in Jesus, compare him to anyone else and you will find him to be more than any man made philosophy of moral goodness.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz