Sometimes when you travel to a new place — especially when you travel to a country (like Belgium) with a reputation for being non-religious — you wonder, “Is God really here? No one here believes in God. The churches have all been turned into bars and dance halls. Does God even notice this part of the world anymore?” Give it time. God in his infinite wisdom will send you a reminder of all he is doing to renew the world, even the ends of the earth like Belgium. This week, I found out that my two housemates are Christians. One of them is recently baptized, by her choice, and her faith is a baby’s faith. She believes in God, and she believes that believing in God makes her a better person. God gave me the opportunity to be a witness to her, to say, “Not only does believing in God make you a better person; drawing near to God, who is the Most Real Thing, is to put yourself in harmony with all Creation.” We were able to talk about what it means to believe in a Creator who gives life and dignity to his created beings.
My other housemate’s faith is a bit more mature, if still unorthodox. She grew up Christian, and believes in Christ as the Son and Sacrifice of God, given for us for forgiveness of sins (so far so good). But she believes that the Bible is a collection of writings by humans, and that it doesn’t reflect the nature of God any more perfectly than other holy books of other religions (problematic). But in our conversations, she has made it a point to discuss the nature of God as embedded in Christ and Christ’s teachings, on his love and forgiveness. Her faith may not be orthodox, but my job as witness of Christ is not to criticize and correct, but rather to focus on the good. The nature of God is Love and Forgiveness; the nature of Christ is pure God and pure Man; the life of the Christian is to love and forgive, help and support the less fortunate. On these things we agree.
These conversations are a good reminder for me in a couple ways. First, that God is there, in churches and in hearts, even when it seems hopeless. Second, and maybe more usefully, that followers of Christ come in many shapes and sizes. Especially outside of the conservative centers of Old Christianity (the US and the Catholic countries), Christians are incredibly varied in their beliefs, their politics, and their identities. We need to seek solidarity and not division. As Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). –Bethany