Fair warning: My mind is contemplating life from many angles right now. I feel like I have enough words in my head to fill a book with lengthy chapters on any number of topics. But I will try to focus on a couple of items here, and state them as clearly as I can. Perhaps I can touch on other points later.
In light of both local and world news events, I am hearing and reading of more and more people asking, “What’s wrong with people today?” I wonder if it’s just an expression, or if people are sincerely wondering. If it’s the latter, I would imagine that a feeling of great desperation might accompany the question.
Frankly, I believe it’s the same thing that’s been wrong with people all along–there’s nothing new under the sun. Considering the rampant violence that seems to somehow intersect our lives every day, “No moral compass,” would be my simple response. How can we expect people to care about others and act in a selfless and responsible manner when there isn’t much in this world encouraging us to do so? Self-centeredness is rampant–I struggle with it myself. (How dare you pull out in front of me?! What makes him think he can treat me like that?! C’mon lady, I don’t have all day!–a small sampling of my pathetic, impatient, self-centered thinking).
But I also have a trusted place to turn in order to align my life with the morals and values that I know to be of utmost importance. I am convinced that the life of Jesus sets the perfect example for how we should walk through this life, and is the answer to what EVERY person and situation needs. But, I am also quick to admit that so many of us who call ourselves “Christians” are doing a terrible job of reflecting Jesus and His love and character and have confused the issue to the point of people immediately writing us off as idiotic, hypocritical fools. A recent quote I read says, “Christians are meant to give off the aroma of Christ, but we’ve often smelled like something else.”
When someone hears the word “Christian,” the first word that should come to mind is “love.” I can almost hear some of you laughing and rolling your eyes at that one. But it’s what Jesus exemplified. He preached truth and change and turning from sin too, but he always loved.
Because of our bad example and erroneous teaching over the years, so many today have no need for Christianity or “religion” in general. (Honestly, I don’t like the word “religion” at all. It gives the impression of “doing something for Godly gain” when in reality, grace is a free gift that we only need to accept and then grow to understand more and more.) But the True* Christian life offers HOPE. It offers love, forgiveness and a reason for being alive in this otherwise messed-up world. It gives life meaning. It offers the Perfect Example of how to live in every situation… but it takes sacrifice. Instead of self-centeredness, it requires other-centeredness. And therein lies the solution to what ails us today! But it will not come in a massive wave of world change. It will come one heart at a time. It takes time, patience and dedication.. and it’s not easy.
The gospel (translated “good news”) of Jesus really IS good news, but it’s not difficult to believe that many see Christians as bearers of bad news, not good.
So here’s some bad news: New laws are not going to make everything right. Politicians are not going to save us. Treaties with other countries will not guarantee our safety. A new job, spouse or neighborhood will not bring us ultimate happiness.
Here is a quote from a book that I am currently reading, which offers what I have come to believe as the Good News: “It strikes me as genuinely good news that we are creations of a loving God who wants us to thrive, not random byproducts of a meaningless universe. That God entered our world and demonstrated in person that nothing–not even death–can separate us from God’s love. That the story of Jesus has the main theme: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave…’ That human existence will not end with the imminent warming of our atmosphere or the gradual cooling of our sun, and my particular destiny will not end with death. That God will balance the scales of human history not by karma but by grace, in such a way that no one will be able to accuse God of unfairness.” —Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey
Our worlds can be rocked and our very lives could be snuffed out tomorrow. It could happen to us–it’s not always someone else. But there is Hope and a Peace that passes all understanding. I am not worthy of it, but I cling to it with all that I am, because, through grace, I know the Great I Am.
(If this post leaves you with questions, I would love to dialogue with you about them. There is so incredibly much more to be said. And if you consider yourself a Christian [or not] and are up for a good book that might make you want to radically change how you live your life, join me in reading Vanishing Grace. I would love to discuss it with you. It is really challenging me to become a more loving and grace-filled person, and making me aware of areas where I need a lot of work!)
*I use the word True in front of Christian here to represent people who are honestly striving to follow Jesus. It seems that many people call themselves “Christian” (think surveys, internet article comments, people screaming at other people) but don’t have a good grasp on what it entails and are, perhaps, currently far from being a whole-hearted follower of Jesus. Just my observation/opinion.