What if the basic premise of life as a Christian that we were taught all of our life is wrong? Like many people, I grew up in church half-listening to what was being preached. After I gave my life to Christ as an adult I started paying more attention to the sermons and even studied the Bible on my own. Over my almost 30 years as a Christian, I’ve even preached a few times and taught some Bible classes. And as the years have progressed, I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable. The more I’ve studied the Bible, listened to teaching, and had conversations with other Christians, I’ve had a nagging “thing” in the back of my mind (or maybe it’s in my spirit). Recent events have caused the “thing” to grow bigger, louder, and stronger. But before you drop to your knees to pray for my back-slidden soul, please allow me to explain.
I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I accept Him as my Lord and Savior. I am committed to following Christ as His Holy Spirit leads me until either my earthly passing or His second coming, at which point I will enter into eternal life in His presence. My “doubts” have nothing to do with the truth of the gospel and God’s plan of salvation based on faith through grace (or vice versa). My struggle has to do with our earthly activities and how we interact with God. This “thing” has caused me to question our foundational approach as Christians to life. Furthermore, I have to admit that what I’ve come to question is less about direct statements heard from a pulpit. It is more about implied or inferred messages that are meant to motivate us to “do the right thing”.
The subtle yet seemingly pervasive message is this – if we live for God and do the right things, God will make everything go well for us. The extreme of this is the faith teaching that tells us that if we exercise our faith then God will do whatever we ask Him to do. A less extreme version is that if we put our faith in God and worship Him with our treasure, time, and talents, then God will cause us to accomplish our dreams. One fault in this concept as I’ve stated is that it downplays the degree to which we obey God’s commands. It’s pretty easy to think that if God doesn’t do what we asked him to do it’s because we messed up – after all, we aren’t perfect. And for a long time, I personally defaulted to that excuse to avoid being disappointed with God. But that “thing” was still there. Recently I’ve had to wrestle with this even more as I’ve considered the impacts of current events like the pandemic, racial injustice, political turmoil, and personal tragedies. So here is the shift.
The issue with the foundational premise that if we live for God and do the right things that it will go well for us, is that it puts us at the center of our life. It is based on the thought that God’s primary interest is in giving us a great life, so He is trying to guide us on the path that will be pleasing to us. It is based on the premise that God’s whole purpose is to fulfill our highest dreams and potential. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing Scriptures that promise us that God loves us, will help us, will deliver us, will even prosper us. I am not overlooking Biblical passages in which God says He will bless us. I am questioning whether that should be the foundation for our Christian existence, and whether our interaction with God should be based on that.
The alternative idea is that we are NOT at the center of God’s purpose. Perhaps God’s plan and purpose is much bigger than our individual or even collective life stories. Maybe we are part of a huge cosmic struggle that God is waging against the forces of evil, and His victory has little to do with how pleased we are with what happens in our life. And some of what we experience is collateral damage – negative effects of this celestial war – that we cannot avoid. But even with that, God has graciously implanted principles in the earth that provide an opportunity for humans to deal with some of the adverse effects of the war and even experience some pleasure. And perhaps God’s ultimate victory has already been secured and the only question of consequence for us is which side we will be aligned with when history comes to a close. And what if believing that God’s only purpose is to serve us and help us fulfill our dreams means we may not truly be aligned with God? I believe this alternative idea is closer to the truth. What about you?