Don’t Hide from the Big Questions: Christianity’s answer to the very meaning of life
Don’t Hide from the Big Questions
A brief answer of Christianity’s answer to the very meaning of life.
Why do you do what you do? What drives you to get out of bed every morning? Does something keep you from going to bed at a decent time each night? What is your foundational motivation for living? Why do you do what you do?
I meet few people who have given honest time and thought to these sort of questions. Any sort of existence of a coherent framework of existence or meaning is seldom found thought through. What is more often found are various methods of diversions, distractions or escapes from the general anxiety that runs like a river beneath the hours of our days. We find cheap substitutes that give us a weekend of laughter and fun, or a night of relaxation, while continually pushing aside the big questions of “why am I alive?”
We are surrounded by people who appear to have it all together, but if all the modern day research is correct, people who within themselves are full of internal strife and conflict. An unsettledness. A lack of peace or harmony within. Maybe they can’t quite put their fingers on what it is. And even if they have attempted to do so via some sort of religious conversation, encouraging book or good deed, they may feel personal rewards. But they still cannot fully give an answer as to why they live, what is the purpose of their beating hearts within.
Maybe some of this is conjecture, and maybe some of what I am trying to say is exaggerated. Indeed that could be the case. But to a degree, I firmly believe that it is not. You see, we all have an aim in life. A general aim that does give us purpose behind our actions. For those that have none at all, the despair is obvious, and you can literally observe them hop from this job to the next, or from this city or that, groping in the dark, trying to find their way. For others, the aim may be the expansion of their career, their family and loving their spouses or children. Finally getting that job and making decent money. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it is there.
And now I feel like I am contradicting myself. Did I not begin writing, saying that many of us do not have a coherent reason why we should get out of bed every morning? This is where I am getting at: coherence. Something that makes sense for the long haul. That motivation for living that you can cling to with all of your heart during the moments of your final breath and say “this life I lived - it was worth it.” And I can argue that all the good things that may drive us - the desire to provide for our families, to raise our children well, to make a decent salary, to even be local philanthropists and be servants of the needy in our community - all wonderfully good things, but things that still don’t answer the question “why?”
This is the precise reason why you cannot remove religious desire from our worlds sphere. If you ask why enough times, in America it will generally be distilled into some type of personal reward or satisfaction that comes from it. But that is not coherent whatsoever, as every person will have a different version of personal satisfaction.
It is also not coherent because this only gives birth to two different ways of life. In our modern world, there still is a public expectation of virtue - no lying, no stealing. Be kind, hard working. Don’t gossip. Be loving and generous to others. We’re expected to do so in the workplace. But if you have things that really bring about personal rewards that could conflict with other people’s lives, then keep that at home. Keep that within the walls of your private life. And learn how to separate the two. If you can play this balancing game, people won’t question you. You’ll have the freedom to go home be one person, and show up to work or to your next family event or social gathering the next day as another. And all will be well.
The images I am drawing are glimpses of the modern life. But there is nothing coherent about it. Nothing actually makes sense if it is solely based on the individual. But do we not all desire coherence? An answer that makes sense out of the whole? Surely it must go beyond what gives you the most rewards, or what makes you happy.
This Easter season, within our highly religious area of the Jersey Shore, these games are played to a high degree. And there is a religious card thrown in - one that people play when they feel they need to, as a sort of added-measure of security for the hidden anxiety of life.
Christianity does something that no other religion can truly offer, and it lies in three things: security, slavery and freedom. That may sound confusing. But here me out, as this is the whole of the Christian message.
Christianity provides meaning for our existence by giving us two bookends for our life. One is a definition of our past. The other is a definition of our future. And thus, we are left in the present with the fullness of meaning and motivation for life because we know our past and future is defined for us, and ultimately, has been taken out of our grasp by someone else and returned to us as a gift by Jesus himself. I’ll briefly explain.
Christianity offers security. Not the kind of security you may be thinking about - financial security, security from sickness, security from trauma or security from hardships. Rather, Christianity gives us security by the confession that life, in and of itself, is outside of our control. It is honest about this. There are so many variables that we simply cannot control. You could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, a truck could hit you on the way to work. It is hard for us in Suburbia to feel this lack of security, because our modern homes feel so secure. Yet this is truth.
The core of Christianity, the Gospel, has a claim that says no matter what comes our way - whatever it may be, both the good and the bad - that there is the availability of content and security that says “I can survive whatever may happen.” In the Gospel itself, we have Jesus’ death that took place in the past. The claim of Scripture is that the death Jesus died was for our sins - essentially bringing us salvation. Thus upon faith in him, between us and God, the divide is removed. His death now defines us - our past is secure before God.
Then he rose from the grave - showing that this life is not an end to itself, but that there is a much better life ahead of us. A renewed life. It is a deposit of a world without sin or death, mourning or crying. This is what the Bible teaches. And thus today, we know that in Christ we have the opportunity of a relationship with God himself because of what Christ did in the past, with a deposit of his resurrection, showing that a much better future lies in wait for us. Therefore today, you are secure. No matter what may come in life, the good and the bad, Christianity gives you the ability to say “I know ho to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I can learned the secret of facing plenty and hinger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
The Freedom of Slavery
These leads us to our close. The kind of life we are speaking of puts chains on our wrists and ankles to the prison wall of Christ. And when I say chains and prison, I am trying to draw imagery of you for slavery. Because that is the core of the Christian command and identity. When you realize your past and future is secure in Christ through faith and love in him, you willingly place the shackles of Christ on you and say “I am no longer living for anything else. Only Christ.” It is voluntary slavery.
But this is the peculiar thing about this voluntary slavery, because right now this could seem to be the least appealing thing you’ve read so far. Slavery to Christ is actually freedom, humanly speaking. Jesus himself was truly Human when he was here. By his life, he defined what it means to be human, and showed us how to live with all out desires and longings within us. And the Christian recognizes that if there is any hope in this life, that anything that is antithetical to Christ and the order that God created this world to be in, sin, that it needs to be removed. Out of the way, if coherence is to be found. But it is deep within us, a complicated layer of desire that seems to always choose self above Christ and others.
Yet God sends his Spirit to dwell within us, to grab our hearts and begin its alteration and direction to be aimed at God in all we do - all by the work of Christ. By Jesus removing our sins, and offering us forgiveness an grace, no matter what you’ve done, those sins can be erased and can be continually erased.
Therefore the only hope you can find is in Christ, it is a leap of faith. And when those chains of Christ are thrown on us, we realize that they are actually chains of liberation. In Christ, we become fully free. Free from the cares and concerns of this world. Free from the need to impress others, to live for money or a higher standard of living, free from the despair of having less than others, free from needing to find meaning in your flourishing of your children, free from needing that next promotion or needing to achieve something greater - your heart strings can be free from it all as you say “Now I have Christ. I no longer need to find ultimate meaning in those things.”
And the result of this is tremendous. It gives way to incredible joy, lion-like courage, and self-less love. You slowly are removed out of picture and replaced by Christ. Thus, you boldly live. You tap into real joy. Your only need is him. Truly joy is discovered. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
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