Disney’s Aladdin is flawed in a lot of ways – the cheesy story, the sometimes comically inappropriate racism (though to be fair things were a bit different in the 90s) – but in lots of ways it’s a great movie.
One line has always stuck in my head though: when Aladdin (or Prince Ali at this point) invites Princess Jasmine for a magic carpet ride, he asks her “do you trust me?”
That line for me holds a lot of theological water when we think about our faith. At times we’ve made it all a bit hard to understand, or we’ve made ‘believing in God’ a mark of faith without really defining what said belief means. What does believing in God mean? Believing he exists? Believing he wants the best for me? But I think at the heart of that concept and of our faith is that same, simple question.
Do you trust me?
Adam and Eve, you don’t need to be like me because you have me and all the riches of creation, and you are made in my image. Do you trust me?
Abram, you and your wife may be way past any hope of having children, but I will give you a son, and through your descendants I’ll build my people. Do you trust me?
Moses, it may be scary to go back to Egypt and stand before Pharaoh, but I’ll be with you the whole time and I will save my people through you. Do you trust me?
Joshua, the people of Canaan may look gigantic but I promised to take your people to Canaan and give them the land. Do you trust me?
Saul, this giant standing before you and scaring the hell out of your whole army can be defeated, because I am the living God. Do you trust me?
David, I will raise from your children someone who will sit on your throne forever, who will be my son. Do you trust me?
Israel, you languish in exile, and you deserve it. But I have plans to bring you home and make you happy again, because I promised long ago that you would be my people, be the place where the saviour of all is born. Do you trust me?
Mary, you are just a young girl, and though you are blessed and you will be the mother of the promised saviour, it will make your life very hard. Do you trust me?
Jairus, I have the power over life and death. Your little girl may be dead now but that will not stop me from getting her back for you. Do you trust me?
Friend, you hang dying on a cross like me. But you trust that I am not a criminal, but the King. I know you trust me, and I’ll see you soon.
And even today Jesus asks us: “Friend, whether you know me or not, I’m the only one who can give you real life, give you hope, abiding, unconditional love and goodness. Do you trust me? When you stand before the judgement throne of heaven, I am the one and only thing that can defend you, I will guarantee you a verdict of not guilty. Do you trust me?”
Of course when we say yes to that question what happens next is often less rosy than a magic carpet ride – sometimes it’s more like something out of Saving Private Ryan or 300!
Trust is needed because taking God seriously means submitting to his authority, allowing him to take you places. And that often entails shock or pain. But the truth is that when we say we believe in God (and here it’s worth mentioning that one of the commonest Greek words used in the NT for ‘believe’ is pisteuo, or ‘trust’), it means we trust that he will take us where we need to be. We trust that he has the power to save us from killing sin, and so he changes our lives. We trust that he desires the best for us, so he will often hijack our lives and point it so we become more like Jesus.
But we say with confidence that we trust him. We trust him because he made a promise a long time ago to bring his people back home, and he has never broken that promise. We trust him because we see the depths of his love and power at the cross and the resurrection – he is trustworthy!