"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
- John 3:16-21
If there’s one word that trips up American Christians more than any other, I think it’s “believe.” Our logical, Western, post-enlightenment minds love the word, but we don’t grasp its entire meaning. We think belief means mere intellectual consent to a proposition. We’re scientists with a great theory. We want to prove to the world that Jesus is/was the Son of God, whatever that means, and that anyone who hasn’t come to the same conclusion we have is using faulty science … and is in big trouble for it.
The problem is that many Christians read this verse in isolation. If we do, we may be tempted to believe that God's love is conditional, and that if we don't do something very specific—that is, "believe in him"—we will receive not eternal life, but eternal death. An awful lot hangs on that word "believe," because at a glance, it seems like a required action.
The Greek word is pisteuo, which means "to think to be true, to be persuaded of." Kind of like, "Do you believe it will rain tomorrow?" In its basic form, yes—it's an intellectual exercise. But pisteuo has some extra connotations that our word "believe" doesn't necessarily carry: it also means "to trust, to have confidence in, to commit oneself to." That's more like saying to someone, "You can do it; I believe in you."
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world? That's not really what God asks—not to "believe THAT." Instead, do you believe IN—pisteuo—Jesus? Do you put your whole trust in God's grace and love, like Jesus did? It's a very different question, and it calls us out of the black-and-white, heaven-or-hell thinking that many Christians fall victim to. When Jesus uses the word "believe," he's not asking us to just get over it and swallow the facts. He's inviting us to trust him and commit ourselves to him.
“Love’s Divine.” In it he expresses his doubts and shortcomings, reminds himself that love is the way to live, and comes to the conclusion that “love can help me know my name.” Yes. And if I know my own name, it’s far easier for me to “believe in the name of the only Son of God.” Science is wonderful, and I trust science to teach us nearly everything about the physical world. But science cannot give us pisteuo—real belief—not belief THAT, but belief IN.