Even if I could prove beyond doubt that Jesus Christ not only existed but was – and is – the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world, some of you, perhaps many of you, still would not accept that.
I heard a conference speaker say recently that the evils of smoking are well documented, but millions of people do it anyway – with the full knowledge that they are harming their bodies. Smokers have their reasons. I don’t judge them; it doesn’t bother me one way or another, as long as no one smokes in my car or house (where the effects will linger, proving that no one lives in a vacuum; every decision we make does affect others).
So, if proof isn’t enough, why follow Jesus?
Because it works.
Jesus wants the best for us.
“I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Why would we not want that?
Because having “abundant life” means giving up things that do not benefit us. We don’t like being told we can’t have something or can’t do something, even if it might hurt us.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)
How antiquated is that in American society? And yet God put that in the Ten Commandments for a reason. Marriage is supposed to be the highest form of relationship, when done right, when the husband and wife want the best for each other.
Many of us have screwed that up, so we look for validation in other places. But we’ll never find a deeper relationship on Earth than we will in “holy matrimony.” There are plenty of effects of relationships gone sour when we don’t want the best for each other.
We are inherently selfish. I want the best for me, even if that hurts you. But if I hurt you, I won’t ever find the best for me, because I’ll feel sadness when you are hurt. We are inherently that way too.
The Ten Commandments are a list of dos and mostly don’ts that we are to follow. All of them are for our own benefit. Our common laws are based on them (do not steal; do not commit murder; do not bear false witness against your neighbor; you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor).
Whether the Ten Commandments are posted on the Courthouse lawn or outside a school doesn’t matter to me. They’re just words on paper, or stone. When they are written on our hearts, then they mean something.
The ACLU has no jurisdiction over my heart.
Head and heart
My heart. That’s where “faith” meets “prove it.”
I had a lonely, insecure childhood. My family moved around some in my elementary and junior high years, including out of state a couple of times. Getting uprooted meant I never formed deep friendships. I’ve never been more afraid than the first day of ninth grade, in a new town in a different state where I didn’t know a soul, except my seventh-grade sister in another part of the building.
The following summer, we attended a church camp in western Pennsylvania, again someplace I’d never been before. I was accepted immediately. The counselors and even other campers noticed me – not because I did anything, but just because I was there.
They made it clear they did that because Jesus loves them as much as He loves me. We don’t have to earn His love; He gives it away freely.
This was new to me.
I wanted what they had.
I didn’t ask for a theological discussion. I didn’t know the history of the Bible then. I didn’t know what the Bible said about marriage, money, pain and suffering, or the End Times. I just knew that Jesus loves me, because I saw it and felt it in the people around me.
That was my starting point.
As I’ve studied the Bible since, on my own and in groups and with Sunday morning sermons, I’ve learned more about Jesus’ love for me, and how to live that way. Mind and heart. Jesus connects in both places.
Good and evil
Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s a big stumbling block for many. If God wants the best for us, why do we all suffer?
My wife and I just attended the funeral of her cousin. She died a week ago of a heart attack at age 56. Left four children and 15 grandchildren. No warning. Totally unexpected. Why?
I can’t answer that.
But none of us is exempt from that kind of story, are we? Who do I think I am that I am above pain?
If we lived life happily ever after on Earth, where would we find meaning? Seriously.
We find meaning in helping others. We fundraise to fight cancer or world hunger. We provide clothes and other necessities to victims of fires, earthquakes or floods. We mentor in schools. We raise awareness for autism or diabetes. We do a myriad of things to serve those less fortunate than us.
If life is only about making me happy, why should I care about you?
God put a deeper purpose in our hearts than the “pursuit of happiness.” There’s nothing wrong with being happy, of course, but how do we do that? Really?
God: yay or nay
Here’s the kicker, the real reason most people don’t follow Jesus: He demands a response from every one of us. “Faith is fine for you, but not for me,” you might say. Or, “What makes you so certain that your faith is the right one?”
Because Jesus is the only “god” who wants the best for us. No other god can offer salvation from anything. There’s no bigger picture.
Jesus is inclusive and exclusive at the same time.
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The invitation is open to every person, but not everyone will accept the invite. There are rewards and consequences either way. No exceptions.
Good Friday is the most horrific story ever told. What makes it so compelling is that Jesus died on that cross willingly, because He wants the best for us: relationship with His Father.
Jesus overcame even death on Easter.
We do not want the best for our own lives. I say and do things I know I shouldn’t, but I do them anyway.
I ask forgiveness, and Jesus forgives. Every time. He knows the human heart. He created it. I reach out to Him again. He smiles. I walk away, then return to Him. He smiles again.
This is relationship. This is the way life is meant to be.
It’s the way we should treat each other as well.
Think how much nicer America would be if we did.
If we let the God who wants the best for us lead us.
Take a deep breath. Could it happen?
Theoretically, yes. In practice, no.
Because we cannot know good without evil.
So, we live with both.
Which side will you choose?