I Would Not Choose Christianity
I am currently reading Sapiens by historian Yuval Harari. He subtitled his book “A Brief History of Humankind”. How humble. His is a pure humanist POV that views anything not originating from a biological imperative as a myth or an imagined reality, created to help keep some sense of order in a society. Our faith included. A myth.
His arguments got me wondering about my faith. As I pondered his theories of culture and religion, and then my reasons for following the Way of Jesus, I concluded that if I looked at all the religious & faith options available to me in the world, I am not sure I would pick Christianity! How would I know which was true? Better to live by my own rules.
Yet I cannot escape faith and belief. I have tried. It calls to me even in my doubt and when life makes no sense whatsoever. My most profound encounter with this was when I lead an international church in Phnom Penh Cambodia in the 1990’s – post Khmer Rouge. The church was comprised mostly of relief and development workers. Every day they worked with a traumatized people. Their MAIN issue week in and week out was: “How could God have endured and allowed the pain and horror that the Khmer Rouge inflicted on these people? Where was God?”. Christian platitudes from a pastor were not helpful in those moments. I had to wrestle down the ‘why’ of my faith to its purest essence.
It’s such a messed up world isn’t it?. A hard one in which to maintain faith & hope in anything. Evil threatens to break the dike of good and decency. The dike has so many holes in it there’s not enough of us to plug them. So, why should I believe in a God who lets this world get so messed up? Why would I choose to plug the holes in the dike? Why not just pull away from it all and let it be?
“What or who, keeps you following Jesus”?
The only answer I have is it comes back to faith as a gift. If it came down to being dependent on creating and sustaining personal reasons to remain engaged as a Christian, I would have given up long ago. I have endured too much personal pain and have seen too much evil in my lifetime for that formula to keep me in the game.
The gift of faith does not and cannot come from within. Someone gives it. If you have faith in Jesus it is because that is God’s gift to you, to me. It is a deep, often unexplainable confidence that keeps my eyes focused on God in the face of so much that rails against even the existence of a God.
The Bible says that without faith, we can’t please God. It’s also made clear we can’t work our way to God, therefore He gives us the faith we need to come close to Him. And sometimes, like the manna the Israelites had to collect each morning, we too have to pick up our faith, enough for each day.
This is both a humbling and an astounding mystery, so counter-intuitive to the quid-pro-quo economy of the human mind. We have what we have been given. No effort. No status produced this. Why some get the gift and others don’t is also a mystery, and will remain so because since it’s a gift, it’s up to the Giver.
Here is where a connection between faith and our engagement with the world comes together. Faith being a gift of God releases us from trying to convince others to take the gift. It’s not ours to give. We are released from placing heavy ‘save the world’ burdens on ourselves and are freed instead to live according to our faith in a way that “will make the teaching of God our Saviour attractive” (Titus 2:10). Heb 11:6 says that without faith we can’t even connect to God and that to even receive faith you need to believe that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who are open to seek after Him.
So the BIG question is whether there is anything to convince others of a reason to believe that God even exists. What would make the teaching of God our Saviour attractive?
That’s where love enters. God is love. If so, then where’s the love?
- You can say anything. You can create the most articulate argument for God and belief, but if LOVE, the very essence of God is not evident, how will anyone even believe there is a gift-giving God?
- But if a person sees and feels love, belief in a God is perhaps possible. If the thought of a God who loves is possible, then seeking after that God is possible, and then the gift of faith is possible.
Faith is not in your control. It’s a gift of God
Love however, is in your control. It’s a gift you can give.