The Rev. Susan Russell says this today on her blog:
And in John's understanding Jesus was given so that we might believe in him and thus receive the gift of eternal life. OK – but what does it mean to believe? Is it to ascent to certain facts, or as John A. T. Robinson once put it, "swallow nineteen unbelievable things before breakfast?"
If so, then I fear Christianity is reduced to what one colleague has called “The religion ABOUT Jesus, rather than the religion OF Jesus.” Rather is it possible that to believe in Jesus is to believe in the things he taught and the way he lived, more than to believe certain things about him?
Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, shared a great insight into the whole “believing” thing at a retreat we were part of last spring when he talked about the difference between believing IN and believing THAT in reference to his decades-long marriage to his wife, Ginger. “To say I believe that we are married is to assent to a certifiable set of facts that are as easy to verify as checking with the hall of records for our marriage license or the parish register for the service record. To say I believe in our marriage is a whole different thing: it is to name not facts about our relationship but faith in it.”
To believe IN is to take belief out of the realm of facts and into the world of faith; and to have faith is to trust. To say "I believe in" is to say, "I trust," and then (perhaps the biggest leap of all) to live as if I do trust. It means living life in trust that God is good, that God cares, that God is love, that God surrounds us with love, that we are called to love and serve others. It is placing trust in God -- not in all the things we usually trust for our security and well being: money and status, power and politics, stockpiling weapons of mass destructions and beefing up border patrols. Rather it means trusting Jesus' vision of the realm of God in our midst, and claiming both the possibilities and responsibilities this sets before us. Believing means trusting means doing. It means taking to heart the words of Verna Dozier: “Don’t tell me WHAT you believe – tell me what difference it MAKES that you believe!” That’s eternal life.
The point of Christian faith is not "believe in Jesus now for the sake of heaven later", but "trust in the vision that Jesus proclaimed and live eternal life now."