Macy's department store likes to use this word as an advertising slogan. During the Thanksgiving Day parade I saw the banner on the facade of Macy's in New York City. Without bothering to do the research, I'm going to guess that it has its origins in the movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" in which a clever lawyer "proves" in court that Macy's Santa Claus is the one and only Santa Claus.
In the course of the story line, a cynical rationalist single mother is raising her daughter to be a skeptic too. Mom was burned by a bad marriage, and the little girl is taught to disregard fairy tales and all other intangibles along with the fabrications. The test case boils down to Santa Claus. When mom inexplicably learns to love and trust Kris Kringle, she tries to get her still cynical daughter to believe by repeating the mantra, "I believe, I believe...."
In this case the object of her faith was Santa Claus. The adult theme was to have faith in people. If you really love someone, you have to think the best of them and expect the best from them. It's a fun movie with whimsical fantasy accompanied by an upbeat message about relationships.
But I was pondering the implications of this one word slogan: "Believe". Grammatically speaking it is an imperative. It commands us to take a certain attitude about something, namely develop a conviction that it is true. It is only fair to ask, "Believe what?" If you believe everything you are disregarded as gullible, and subject to the wiles of every bunko artist that comes along. Surely this cannot be the message.
If it means to believe in the spirit of Christmas and create irresponsible debt in order to shower all your friends and relatives with impressive gifts, then it is just a part of the great conspiracy to make us slaves to the wealthy aristocracy. Since it is put forth by an emporium of merchandise, this becomes the more likely scenario sought by those who purvey this slogan. Enough cynicism.
To believe is the same as to have faith. And when we speak of the meaning of faith, someone needs to ask, "Faith in what?" Here's a kid high on some hallucinogenic drug, who believes he can fly. This is likely to lead to his untimely demise. No matter how strongly we believe in a thing (or person), it is not our faith that creates reality. If I strongly believe there is oil under my back yard, I might spend all the money I can borrow to sink a well. My faith will not bring up oil. It may or not be there, but my faith will not place it there.
Since we're are being hypothetical here, let's say that I have studied geology, and that I have spoken to many in the field who know more than I, and they all say there is oil under my property. Let's say we have verified its presence with sonar tests. Now if I say I believe there is oil under my property, it is not a blind faith that hopes against all odds that it is true. Instead it is really a faith in experts and empirical evidence.
Are you with me so far? Okay, then lets try these models on religious faith. Far too many people think the definition of Christian faith follows the blind faith model. How many times have you heard that faith is a leap in the dark? Unfortunately there are too many churches that will reinforce that definition. There are professing Christians who think that is how we believe in God.
Let me suggest that the Christian faith is a little more like the second model, trusting the experts and examining empirical evidence. In my antitype the "experts" are not ministers. In this case the expert is Jesus Christ. He said, "No man comes to the Father but by me." He promised, "Whoever hears my words, and believes in Him who sent me, has eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24) I don't believe in heaven with blind faith. I believe in the Expert who has been there and came back to tell us about it. No one else in all of human history has authority documented by anything as strong as resurrection from the dead.
Now as for the empirical evidence. The science is jurisprudence. The process is to examine the eyewitness testimonials of those who walked with Jesus and were there at His resurrection. We have those documents, and we have more textual evidence to examine than we have texts to prove that Julius Caesar existed. Don't scoff unless you have read the New Testament for yourself.
Now it's time for me to confess that this is not really how I came to faith in Christ. When I heard Billy Graham say this is what the Bible teaches, something deep within me recognized the message as true. I found that what Billy said the Bible was teaching about my human nature vibrated a harmonic response in my heart and mind. I knew it was true because that book knew me with frightening accuracy. I knew I needed a Savior.
Don't just "believe". Believe in Jesus Christ.