Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not Just "Preaching to the Choir"

I note with enthusiasm and a bit of trepidation that I had the most visitors ever to my site yesterday, for reasons completely undeterminable (by me at least). In light of this unexpected development, I thought I would like to say something to any of my visitors here. And that is, I'm not just “preaching to the choir”.

What I mean is, yes, I do without apology express a consistent Christian point of view here, but I don’t have everything completely figured out regarding my politics, my views on the world, or even my theology. I think that becoming a Christian gives one an excellent foundation for pursuing truth in all these arenas, because one is provided an explanation of the way things are; a view of reality. But I am not only speaking to Christians. I hope that what is written here will benefit anyone.

I did not just accept the doctrines of Christianity wholesale, without examining them and confirming their validity, by observation and thought, over the years. People often think that Christianity is all about faith, but by this they mean that one suspends rationality so they can believe fantastical things and be comforted with the notion that God likes them personally and that they will get to heaven someday. I suppose there are some who do believe in Christ that way, but I would say that unless one has thought through their faith, such a conversion is not likely to last past the first blows of the storms of reality. In other words, you need real faith for a real world that has real problems.

As Elisabeth Eliot once said, we could use a few heroes today. A hero doesn’t have to be someone with extraordinary gifts or valor, but he or she is must possess integrity of character, manifested by perseverance in being true to what they believe, even in the face of opposition. But beyond this, a hero also believes in the right things. One can give their life to a cause consistently, passionately and determinedly, yet find out on the other side of eternity that they wasted their time.

Hitler was certainly driven, but his cause was evil, was it not? How does one determine what is the right thing to get passionate about and to give one’s life to? Is there only one right thing?

If you watched the movie "The Passion of the Christ", you saw a man living out the last twelve hours of His life on earth, absolutely determined to fulfill the mission for which He had come. You saw a man beaten mercilessly by his enemies; the movie vividly portrays both the violence and the evil of what happened, exposing the cruelty in men’s hearts. And yet, what passion this man had! This man, who was able to look past his own physical and emotional pain and see a glorious future for humanity, endured the ordeal of crucifixion out of His love, extended even to those who inflicted this upon Him. This is beyond all natural, human comprehension. And yet, don’t we too have moments (hopefully more than fleeting) when we reach beyond ourselves and love another? In those moments, the joy of giving makes us forget to think about ourselves. How freeing and glorious is that feeling! Jesus was One who lived His entire life in this freely giving mode, on a level beyond on any other man who ever lived. And yet, He lived His life of love in His human identity, and not as His divine self. For He was our example of how to live on Earth: He lived out of His relationship with God, and from His connection to the Father, drew upon the supernatural strength that became available to Him. So in that sense, it was not easy. He was burdened with the frailty of His humanity, just as we are. He was subject to temptations, due to that human weakness, that are common to us all: pride, anger, lust, envy, doubt. Yet He was heroic in His choices– He chose to act only as His Father would have Him act; to be holy, as His Father in heaven was/is holy. And He really did choose, and in choosing was strengthened by the Spirit.

Today we have the dignity of “free will”, the God-given right to choose our actions, our beliefs and our responses. Yet I believe the God who created us has a claim on our lives. I am not here just to please myself. Of course, I can make the choice to live a life of self-indulgence, but then I am sure to find unhappiness and misery and miss out on the whole point of living. If the God of the Bible (a personal God who loves His creation) exists, He must have a claim on me. And because I believe that He exists, and has revealed most fully who He is and what He is all about through His Son Jesus, I choose to believe and follow Him. And if God came and lived life on Earth, then the kind of life He led and the choices He made and the priorities and values He had reveal to me what is really worth living for.

I hope from my explanation above that you see that there is a logic to Christian living. You may not yet be convinced that Jesus is who Christians believe Him to be. But perhaps you may understand a bit more, that if He truly is the divine One, then we all have a choice to make about Him. Yet there is also mystery here, for in certain passages the Bible teaches that faith is a gift from God. So I choose, yet I am also enabled to choose.

Jesus said simply, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." Take up His challenge and find out for yourself.

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