I’m preaching about the Apostles Creed right now – what does it say? why does it matter? – that sort of thing. And since we don’t really use “creeds” anywhere else in real life, I’ve been trying to offer metaphors that help us put it in context. Yesterday, I finally got around to my favorite one – sidelines. The beliefs of the church are like the sidelines in a sporting event. They tell you what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds. “I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.” If someone teaches that Buddha created everything and God showed up later, that person is out of bounds. (and seems to have drastically misunderstood the foundations of Buddhism)
What I like about this image is that it leaves room for disagreement. There are a lot of ways to play the game. Baptists might prefer a wing-T offense or single coverage defense while the Episcopalians run a no-huddle and zone. (if you didn’t follow my football references, don’t worry. I looked those terms up on the google) The point is, if we acknowledge the same boundary lines, we’re all playing the same game. You might do church differently, or disagree on some of the minor theological points, but we agree on the Creeds so we can trust and respect one other.
The question I didn’t ask yesterday is this: what if you find yourself out of bounds? What if you wake up one day (or go back and read the Apostles Creed after years of forgetting it existed) and discover you no longer agree. What if you say, “sure, I believe God created things. But I don’t agree with the virgin birth.” Or maybe it’s Jesus’ literal resurrection, or maybe you have no idea what “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” even means. What do you do?
Here’s my advice: keep playing.
Being out of bounds doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. Faith is not the same as agreement. If all you do is agree, then it’s all in your head. That’s always sounded like the “faith without works” the book of James calls “dead” (Jas 2:17). Faith means living as if it’s true. It means getting back in bounds and playing the game. It means showing love as if there’s a God who loves, or showing mercy as if there’s a God who is merciful. And we can do that even on the days when we don’t really know if we know. In fact, I think those days are the most faithful ones I’ve had.
Yes, I have those days too. I don’t know what I would do if I had a different job, but I’m a pastor so I have to get up each day and go to work living as if it’s all true. And when I do, I find that God meets me. I find that my doubts and questions are met by God’s faithfulness and compassion. Does it mean I’ll never question again? No. But I hope it means I’ll be more ready to get back in the game next time.