A lot of people don’t see the difference between faith and belief. They have a lot in common, but the difference makes getting it right harder than you might think.
The Grounding of Faith
Faith doesn’t care which religion you are or even if you have a religion. It’s the set of thoughts and ideas you’ve built your life around.
If you’re a Christian, you believe in life after death. You believe in an all powerful God. You believe in a set of rules that governs moral behavior laid out by God.
If you’re an atheist, you believe that life ends in death. You believe there is no God and no supernatural force to turn to; you instead believe it’s up to you to make things happen. Your morality is governed not by a predefined set of rules, but by what you have determined as the best way for you to live.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or which god you believe in, faith is at play in your life. But that’s not the same as belief, because there is a difference between faith and belief.
The Expansion of Belief
Faith is built on a series of beliefs, yet the two are not the same. Your faith is what guides you and leads you in your life.
Your beliefs on the other hand are not as deeply rooted. You may believe that you can make that red light without getting caught, but the police officer who pulled you over might shatter that belief. You might believe that Sue is gunning for your job, but if Sue couldn’t care less, that may not change your belief.
Faith is built on beliefs. Beliefs about the world around us. But our faith becomes something deeper. It becomes the collection of things we pull together to live the life we believe we should. That’s the difference between faith and belief.
And that difference can be dangerous.
The Danger in Confusing the Two
Too often people confuse their beliefs with their faith. They don’t believe in climate change so this becomes a deeply-rooted part of their faith, almost as if accepting any other position puts their soul in jeopardy.
People believe that one political party is god-ordained. Then that belief becomes part of their faith. In neither of these scenarios are we dealing with faith, but the belief that people have becomes attributed to a higher power or purpose and belief and faith become confused.
Just because you believe socialism makes sense doesn’t mean that your faith will fall apart if you don’t make it happen. Just because you believe that people have a right to carry an AR-15 doesn’t mean that Jesus wants you to give them away with a church membership.
Beliefs come in all sizes: about why the cashier seemed to be really interested in what we were saying to whether the fate of the world is in crisis. Faith is the thing that gives us clarity and purpose and shows us the direction to go. The danger in confusing a simple belief with our faith is that we attribute to a higher purpose something that may simply be a misunderstanding.
Knowing the Difference Between Faith and Belief
If you want to live a life wowfully full of faith, then you will want to follow these three simple steps to know the difference when you hear something you think might be linked to your faith:
- Where Did It Come From: Where did the information come from? Is it from someone who’s telling you what you want to hear or from somewhere that you can verify that it matches up? Sure, it may be nice to hear that there is no climate change or we don’t have to do anything about it, but is that true or just what’s easy to swallow?
- What’s Its Purpose: Is the purpose of the information to make you better or make you angry? Is it to improve the world for everyone or just people like you? And the person providing the information: what vested interest do they have?
- Does It Line Up: Does this new information line up with your faith? If the core of your faith is to love others, does this focus on loving others or making it easier for yourself? It can be easy to lose focus on the roots of our faith when we focus too much on beliefs that don’t line up with it.
The difference between faith and belief can be subtle, but one is built by bricks made from the other. We must be careful that the bricks are strong and line up if we want to have a faith that’s true and solid.