The title of this article is a quote from a conversation that I had with a young man recently. We talked at length about “faith” and how we live from a faith-based life. When I asked him to be specific about his doubts, he mentioned the virgin birth as a prime example. That led to a discussion about the role and nature of Jesus of Nazareth, and other things that don’t seem to fit in with our scientific minds. I realized that I needed to say something that made sense to him. Maybe I gave him too much information, but what preacher is not guilty of that at times?
I told him first that I was not a “religious person” in the formal sense of that term. I believe God is dynamic and we don’t have to go through certain rituals or jump through certain theological hoops to realize God’s Presence, Power and Grace. I believe all of us are children of God and share a portion of the God-Spirit; the spirit of love and forgiveness and benevolence. I see God in all living things, and I have a hard time separating the sacred from the secular. “God saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Then, I pointed out that I believe Jesus represents the fullness of God. “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us” (John 1:14). I believe Jesus was human as we are human, but unique as one that had the roadmap of the way live should be lived. Some people turn away from this Jesus because they cannot accept the miracles or the virgin birth or other mysteries. I don’t have a problem with the Immaculate Conception, but it seems to me that the method of His birth is not as important as the fact that He was born, and shows us that life can be good—leaving us some very wise statements and many spiritual insights. If everyone could put his teachings into practice, we would definitely have “peace on earth”.
My young friend then asked another knotty question. “How do you reconcile the Christian faith with wars, killing, protecting yourself and so on?” I tried to impress upon him that I did not have all the answers, but there had always been a gap between what we say we believe and what we actually do. We want to honor the Ten Commandments, such as “Thou shall not kill”, and yet we decorate those who do it well during wartime. We always have this tension between belief and action.
I believe that this young man represents a lot of people in our society. The last thing I pointed out to him was that it’s good to feel that you are on the right path, but not so good if you think you have the only path. Also, maybe it’s okay to doubt, because our doubts may cause us to search and find a more personal and vital faith. God is with us in ways that we cannot imagine. God is ineffable.
One Sunday morning on television (CBS), Ben Stein made a very significant statement: “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful, lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened or discriminated against. That’s what they are…Christmas trees.” He goes on to say, “It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my house. If people want a crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the menorah a few hundred yards away. I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of being pushed around, period.”
Good for Stein. We who call ourselves Christians may tend to forget that Jesus was a Jew, attended the synagogue and never called himself a Christian. Yet, the Christian movement has made a tremendous difference in this world.
A pharmacist said that the label on the outside of the bottle is not as important as the contents inside. What’s inside your heart is more important than what’s inside your head. As to our mission on earth, I believe it is to help our neighbors find the peach and goodwill that Jesus talked about, and to join hands with others in our common struggles, regardless of our race, politics, or religion.
Here’s a simple test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.
Merry Christmas to all!