Why Christianity? – Why Suffering? – Another Perspective!
These are three articles I wrote a few years ago.
There was still a lot of emphasis at that time on head knowledge rather than heart awareness – but they are a reflection of my thoughts at that time.
As a young Brit living between London and the coast I have many memories of the Second World War. It was Winston Churchill who once said, “There is a purpose being worked out here below“. This raises questions like, “Why are we here?” or “What is the purpose of life?” These and similar questions have led to endless argument and disagreement down through the ages.
Could it be that we have a limited physical lifetime for a purpose and that those who respond to the call of God are being invited to become an active part of the Christian family – with a need for growth in grace and knowledge (of God’s ways). I like the way in which David Watson described this: God is in search of man; that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost; that God always makes the first move; that the meeting point occurs when God’s search for man, and man’s search for God coincide; that we must not be passive observers; that if we seek we will find.
Man is unlike anything else on earth – able to make decisions, plan and create – created with intellect, self awareness, the capacity to learn, to reason, the ability to communicate and produce. Why?
Life is full of transitions – maybe God is working out an incredible purpose that we can only begin to understand – that death is just another transition, after which we will have a chance to really understand the purpose of life with all its joys and sorrows – and the place of pain and suffering.
We all have to start somewhere, and it is obvious to me now that God calls people in almost endless different ways and gives us a chance to respond. For me it seems to have started with the miracle of an open mind. I was faced with a ‘Catch 22’ situation – the need to believe before I could begin to understand. That is neither rational nor logical (but neither is the need for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus). Maybe a starting point can be found in 1Cor2.11-12 which shows that we can only comprehend the thoughts of God through the power of the Holy Spirit (it’s worth reading the whole chapter but starting at v19 of chapter 1). So why did God say, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1.26)? I believe that God chooses to reveal things to us individually, when we are ready to understand.
I have seen it suggested that Paul in Corinth found two types of people:
- Those who wanted proof
- Those who were always asking questions, searching, seeking, discussing, debating and submitting all religious concepts to human reason (Greek philosophy?).
One group wanted a sign (in the apparently meaningless world in which we live), the other wanted wisdom! They wanted a ‘god’ who made sense and gave meaning to life! But the reality is that the uniqueness of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the exclusiveness of his claims have been a stumbling block ever since.
For the time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their fancies, and they will collect teachers who will pander to their own desires. They will no longer listen to the truth, but will wander off after man-made fictions. (2Tim 4.3-4 – Phillips)
Wisdom: there is worldly wisdom (generated by our education systems and the ideas of men) and there is Godly wisdom! Anyone who really stands back and looks at the world as it is, surely has to admit that it is spinning out of control – with no sign of world leaders capable of stopping the rot.
There is a need to encourage and support those who listen, believe and begin to understand something of the incredible promises contained in the Bible – the real wisdom – the pearl of great price – that is offered to all who genuinely seek it!
However ‘successful’ we have been in life (whatever ‘successful’ might mean), there comes a point when we realise that we cannot cope in our own strength – when we really don’t know what to think or do – who do we turn to in our time of need? It is at times of disillusionment with ourselves and others, some sense of loss, bereavement, fear, hopelessness or meaninglessness of life, that people might want a shoulder to cry on.
Are we prepared to deal with the problems of suffering or is this something we don’t have an answer for? Are we prepared to reach out to others and share their journey – even if it makes us vulnerable?
Some thoughts for consideration:
- Life is a journey – does it have any meaning or any purpose?
- If we don’t know where we are going we will end up somewhere else
- We are what we THINK! – are we trapped by our own thoughts?
- The Bible suggests that there is a purpose
- First God called one nation – Israel – to be his people
- Through Israel was to come the promised ‘Messiah’
- Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that those who believe in him would be able to approach God and come to know his ways
- The Bible tells us that God is love – but that is sometimes difficult to understand with so many cries for love in a world that is falling apart!
- Christianity as a way of life – loving one another – many strive to maintain those ‘moral principles’ but without knowing why!
- Some move on to recognise that Christianity is not just another way of life, but a relationship with Jesus and other people – but why?
- There are lessons we can learn from each other
- Head knowledge or heart awareness? The ‘Catch 22’ – we can know about Jesus – but the reality of the gospel will be hidden until we know Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our life
- This involves a wholehearted commitment – a stage that many Christians miss out on?
- A quality of life to be caught rather than taught!
- Disciples are formed not just informed!
- Relax and let the Holy Spirit guide us! Freedom and liberation – away from legalism and the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’
- Until someone is converted and knows it, they do not have a faith worth sharing. Without that assurance we have little to offer God in terms of fruitful service.
- The need for growth – the need to get beyond the adolescent (or questioning) stage. But this needs time and an appropriate environment – only then can the transformation take place.
- The Christian community should be a challenge to the moral, political, economic and social structures of the world around it. Loving defiance v comfortable conformity?
- Are we ready to pass on the good news and play our part in the development of the family of God – the family business?