What comes to mind when you think of Christianity?
An archaic religion?
Anti-progressive? Maybe irrelevant?
These are common sentiments I’ve gathered from conversations with people over the years. However, what I’ve noticed is that people hardly have an issue with Jesus. Many people (I believe) would be open to following Him if they understood the significance of His life, death, and resurrection.
People however, tend to have an issue with what they think Christianity is: a bunch of Judgemental and hypocritical people who preach something they don’t live out. To some extent that is true if you track down Christian history. Even today, a good amount of “Christians” don’t understand the basic truths and principles of Christianity. And because of this, many misrepresent Jesus without even knowing it.
How Gandhi and Steve Jobs viewed Christianity
“Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Gandhi
Now, I don’t know the extent of Gandhi’s understanding of Jesus’ life and teachings, but what I do know from his quote is that seeing the life of certain “Christians” turned Him away from embracing Christianity. Why? because their lives probably contradicted what he saw in Jesus’ life.
Steve Jobs’ experience with Christianity was similar, but different. Unlike Gandhi, he grew up attending a Lutheran Church with his family. However, his issue was more directly related to the character of God. As a teenager, he saw a Time magazine depicting starving children around the world and asked his pastor if God knew about them. The pastor responded with “God knows everything.” (Huffington Post). For the young Jobs, this answer was much too callous, so he decided to leave the church.
Did he understand that God’s heart is moved by every human tear and suffering ? Did he understand that the church is responsible for a great majority of charitable and missionary works around the world? Who knows. But I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if both Gandhi and Jobs embraced Christianity.
Why Christianity is Relevant
I had a conversation with a friend the other day. He grew up in a christian home with devout parents, but all he saw was rules. In his mind, God and church was synonymous to restrictions.
But isn’t that the way many people think about Christianity? Rules and restrictions? There is a God in heaven, this obscure being that wants to stop you from living your life! Sound familiar? For a while, it did for me.
But I learned that the opposite is true. Jesus didn’t come into the world to make our lives miserable. To the contrary, He came to give us life, wait for it…in abundance. And this was not only for people back then, but for anyone (even in 2019) who accepts His grace and call to follow Him.
In John 10:10, Jesus says…..” I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Now this doesn’t mean that Jesus is a genie in a lamp, granting us whatever we desire if we say X amount of prayer and give X amount of money to the church. Beware of the prosperity gospel.
So what does “Life to the full” even mean?
A Purposeful life
God created people to live in relationship with Him. Apart from this relationship, we can’t function the way God created us to function (hence, humanity’s destructive history). People seek for meaning, identity, and purpose in different things: relationships, careers, material possessions and the like, yet all of these things (although good in and of themselves) don’t satisfy us, fully. Only God can do that.
In Mark 1:16-18, Jesus called His first disciples saying, “Come follow me.” But what was He calling them to?
A life of purpose.
Jesus came to restore humanity back to God. When He died on the cross, He traded His perfection for our sins, providing a way for us to receive forgiveness and freedom. Only then can we experience His deep love, intimacy and transformative work in our lives.
When He becomes the centre of our affections, everything else in our lives becomes purposeful. Our jobs, material possessions, our relationships, they all take on a new meaning when filtered through the life of Jesus.
A Community and a Mission
Not only does Jesus call us to follow Him individually, He also calls us to become members of His spiritual family, the community of believers. God created us to live in relationship. His very nature is a relationship (Father, Spirit, Son). This community of believers is what Jesus called His Church. Not a building or a specific place of meeting, the church is the gathering of God’s people, whether it’s at a park, someone’s house, or a building.
In Acts 2:42-47, we get a glimpse of the first century church living life to the full:
- They served the poor and the needy.
- They were committed to one another in love.
- The loved all people, even those considered opponents.
- They remembered Jesus by taking communion together.
- They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and to prayer.
- They were devoted to fellowship, spending time together with food, laughter, and encouragement.
This community was also a movement, a people on a mission, eager to share the good news about Jesus to all nations. They grew rapidly in number despite rampant persecution. The message was too good to be kept a secret. Compelled by Jesus’ resurrection, they continued to proclaim His name wherever they went.
Likewise, Jesus calls us to carry out this mission in our own lives, not by forcing it on people, but by loving them and sharing the gospel message to those willing to listen. The mission is what makes life exciting. It’s what keeps the church healthy, growing, and transforming.
A Hope in Life
“God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile” – Max Lucado
When life get’s tough, hope is what makes it bearable; knowing there is more beyond this life gives us perspective. It reminds us that our momentary trials are light in comparison to the glory and the blessings that awaits in heaven.
In John 14:2-4, Jesus says to His disciples:
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
What could be more reassuring than this?
Jesus promises us place in heaven, and some day He’ll come back to take us there. Until that day comes, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus; when we do so, it changes the way we live and the things we value in life. Faith and purpose, love and community, hope and eternity, these are the things that make life fulfilling. Everything else we receive is a bonus. So let’s not waste our lives chasing the temporary. Let’s decide to live life to the fullest.