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Do or do not. There is no try

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By Jerry Cappel

There is an old story of a tightrope walker who could perform many difficult and amazing stunts on a high wire. He would often perform in unusual places such as between buildings or over a canyon, without a net, to boost the dramatic effect.

After dazzling the crowd with his daring and ability, he would taunt the crowd with a challenge: "Do you think I can cross this wire while carrying someone?"  The crowd would cheer, saying "Yes! We do!" But then his next challenge would be met with silence: "I need a volunteer!"

I don't know if he ever got his volunteer. But the story raises an interesting challenge about faith.

We religious folk easily talk about "believing in" God, Jesus, angels, miracles, heaven, hell, love, etc. But we often talk about it as a spectator watching a performance or show. What we really mean is that we believe in the performance of that being, that person, that thing – over there somewhere else. It's on a stage, around a corner or in the future.

When we do this, we are but the fan club of belief. We support the team from the stands and cheer from the comfort of our living rooms. We are glad for those out there playing the game and will speak up in their support.

But investing our own skin and taking the risk of falling – that's a whole different matter.

As with the high wire acrobat, the call for volunteers presents us with a real challenge. The challenge is whether we are willing to step out on our belief, put our own skin in the game and let our weight down upon that which we claim to believe.

What is the difference between believing in someone and believing someone?

For Christians, it is quite common – and far too easy – to say, "I believe in Jesus." But we say it as if we are filling out a survey and checking the "yes" box of belief.

We are happy to cheer for Jesus from the stands.

But what about believing someone?

That is a completely different thing altogether. To believe someone, we first have to listen and understand them. We have to feel for and with them.

To believe Jesus, we first need to understand what He said and thought and did. What did Jesus say about life and love? Why would he think we should turn the other cheek, love our enemies and seek God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength? Why did He choose to associate with the poor and the stranger? What made him angry, and as importantly, what did not make him angry?

To believe someone takes work.

You have to stop, look and listen. You have to try it out in life. Like with the acrobat, believing someone, in the end, is less about what they do and more about what you do. This is because believing is an action. It is actually something we do, not something we have. We do not have beliefs.

What we have is opinions. What we do is believe.

We either get out on the rope or we don't. Either way, it is based on our believing.

I think this is what is behind Yoda's words to Luke Skywalker, "No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

Yoda is sounding very Jesus-like in this. There were many times when Jesus countered someone's dithering and dilly-dallying with such strong lines as, "sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow me" and "let the dead bury the dead - you follow me." In these moments, I think Jesus is saying that belief is not something you think into existence. It is something you do.

Just as with being on a tightrope, you can only come to know it by doing not by thinking about it. You have to take the step and try it out.

To come to believe Jesus, you have to take some steps out onto the rope. Turn the other cheek. Go the second mile. Love your neighbor. Seek out the poor and dispossessed. Practice forgiveness. Take up your own cross. Seek God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength.

If you want to believe you will have to step out there.

Do or do not. There is no try.