Is Being Sincere Enough?

“It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you’re sincere.” Those words, originally spoken by Linus in a Peanuts comic strip, have been taken very seriously by many. In fact, it has become almost an anthem of American culture. However, when people embrace this philosophy and try to live it out, it can be very destructive.

In November, 1987, 700 men were gathered in the town of Soroti, Uganda. They were members of an anti-government rebel group known as “The Holy Spirit Movement” and were planning an attack on a local army post. As they prepared for battle, the men took off their shirts, rolled up their pant legs and smeared their bodies with oil. Why? Because their leader, a witch doctor named Alice Lakwena, had told the men that they were putting on a magic oil that would make them invincible to grenades and bullets. After getting oiled up, the rebels attacked the army post. Most of them were killed within a few minutes, and the handful of survivors were taken prisoner. (It was they who would tell of the bizarre instructions their leader had given them.) The members of The Holy Spirit Movement were very sincere. It seems obvious that one is a true believer if he is willing to face live bullets, half naked, yet even though these men were sincere, they were sincerely wrong—dead wrong—in their belief that a magic oil would protect them in battle.

Now, even with stories like this, many folks are still uncomfortable with the idea that sincerity of belief is not enough. Especially when it comes to religion, people seem very anxious to declare that all beliefs are equal, and all that really matters is that one is sincere. Some who hold on to a religious (or non-religious) faith they have inherited from their parents seem threatened by thought of examining their beliefs to see if they are really true. Other folks have adopted a “cafeteria style” religion where they pick and choose what they want to believe from a variety of sources. They have chosen beliefs which fit their tastes and make them the most comfortable. They certainly do not want to be bothered by the fact that some of the beliefs they have embraced contradict each other, yet, like it or not, it does matter what we believe. Truth has a way of intruding into our lives. You may sincerely believe it is raining outside, and I may sincerely believe it is not. If we step out the door, however, we will both get wet if it is actually precipitating outside.

Friends, we may prefer various shades of gray, but some aspects of the truth are very black and white. The God described in the Bible either exists or He does not. Both cannot be true. Heaven and Hell are either realities or they are not. Jesus’ claim that no one comes to the Father (enters heaven) except through Him, is either true or it is false. Friend, don’t make the mistake of choosing your religious beliefs based on tradition or personal preference. Ask God to lead you to the truth. He has provided us with His Word, the Bible, and His Spirit to show us the truth. Don’t just believe sincerely. Strive to sincerely believe what is true.
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Dan Erickson