This is a German Bible a friend found for me cheap at an estate sale. It was published in the 1800s in Chicago. Studying Luther’s translation of the Bible (circa 1522) I am struck by how words change their meaning over time, in German, and also in English.
Language is a living thing.
The word belief, (glauben in German) used to mean “beloved”. It was not about mind. It had nothing to do with facts or proof. It was about heart; connection and adoration. To believe in someone or something meant to give them your attention, to prioritize them, and to use your actions to work with them.
As a kid sitting in church, I thought “believe” meant “force your brain to accept these facts, because if you ask questions you are going to hell.” I hope you did not have to feel this way as a child. Belief is about love. Love is how my mom still believes in me and has never stopped loving me, even when I make upsetting decisions or do incomprehensible things.
When Jesus said “whosoever believeth in me”, he wasn’t referring to the concept of forcing one’s mind to stick to prescribed facts. He meant “whoever loves me and trusts the path of my love.” Jesus made a point of loving the people that others had thrown away; murderers, tax collectors, lepers, and poor people. Loving them exactly as he found them, BEFORE trying to fix them. Jesus asks us to trust in love and fear not. He does not instruct us to spend our energy worrying about what sends who to hell, or whether their hell cooties are going to rub off on us.
Belief is not about deciding with our little brains which facts or people to reject. It’s not about being 100% certain what will happen when we die. It’s about finding the path of love even in the midst of confusion.