“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
August, 2008Recently, I saw an interesting billboard by the side of the highway. It showed the words “Believe in something better,” with a picture of a little girl poking her head out of a cardboard box. I immediately thought, “What a neat sign. I wonder what church it’s for? Or maybe it’s for Habitat for Humanity? Or some political candidate?” You’d think I’d know better after my experience with the casino commercial earlier this year (see “Person-2-Person,” March, 2008). But no, I persisted in my naiveté. Sure enough, when I got close enough, I saw that the billboard was an ad for a cellular phone provider and not a church or other charitable organization at all. And while the difference between casino operators and cellular phone providers might be debatable, I was still wrong.
Still, Christianity—along with its spiritual ancestor, Judaism—is about believing in something better. Joshua told the people,
The Psalmist wrote, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you,” (Psa. 63:3 NRSV) and “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces,” (Psa. 119:72 NRSV) among other assertions that the ways of God are superior to the ways of man.
The book of Proverbs, compiled by Solomon, contains additional references, such as “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Prov. 15:16 NRSV). And in 1 Cor. 13, Paul talks about
But the one book of the Bible that really talks about “something better” is the book of Hebrews. In the NRSV, the word is used eleven times. The author clearly knew what it means to “believe in something better,” because he wrote,
We have a message to spread, a gospel to proclaim. We’ve found something better and it has nothing to do with cellular phone service, although it does involve listening to the voice of the Spirit. We believe in a better way, a better God, a better life; that God’s word is better than material wealth, that God’s ways are better than the ways of humans, that love is better than hatred, that hope is better than despair, and that mercy is better than judgment. There are people who don’t feel accepted, who don’t believe they can be forgiven, who don’t believe they can ever find community. They need to “believe in something better.” We can show them better things, better hope, and better promises. We can tell them what we believe and show them how it makes our own lives better.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24 NRSV.)