Opinions of a progressive, feminist, pagan Gen X-exer with a big mouth with a penchant for discussing everything from politics to books from atop my soapbox
It’s a question asked of Christians at least once in their lives. Answers usually vary a bit, but many fall along the lines of…
“Because that’s the way I was raised.”
“Because Jesus washed away all of my sins.”
“Because I want to go to heaven/I don’t want to go to hell when I die.”
“Because it helps me be a better/more stable person.”
“Because believing in Jesus brings me peace/joy.”
“Because Jesus is my helper and friend. He is always there when I need him.”
“Because I know that Jesus will take care of all my earthly needs.”
“Because of the fellowship/friendships I have found in the church.”
“Because I will be rewarded in the next world.”
These all sound great, right? Peace of mind. A promise of a glorious afterlife with rewards and accolades for being a good and faithful servant. Escape from past mistakes when your sins were washed away. Who wouldn’t want all of that, right?
Now, remember the initial question. Why do you believe in God? Now, I can’t say that the sample answers represent all Christians, but they are typically the answers given by your average Christian. As far as those Christians are concerned, all of the answers stated above say the same thing-I believe in God because of what God can do for me. Presented in that way, it sounds a bit selfish, doesn’t it? Why do you love Jesus? Because he gives me stuff and does stuff for me. It reminds me a bit of asking a kindergartner why they love their mom.
“Because she cuts the crusts off my sandwiches.”
“Because she tucks me in at night.”
As people grow older, at least those who grew up in at least semi-loving households, they begin to understand that the reason we love our parents runs much deeper than what they can do for us. While we appreciate the struggles and sacrifices they have made for their family, we know that there is a real person with thoughts and feelings and needs behind it all. We love them for who they are. For their strengths and weaknesses, their sense of humor, their level of caring for others around them. The contributions they have made to the world, not just their own family. Because they are loving and good people, not just to their children but to their friends and coworkers, even strangers. In other words, it’s not just about us anymore.
Why, then, do Christians continue to answer the big question with me and I statements? And if a Christian is in it just for what God can do for them, are they really a Christian at all? If a Christian strives to live what they perceive to be a godly life because of the reward at the end or the fear of punishment, wouldn’t God see right through that? Shouldn’t Christians live within the confines of their moral boundaries because it’s simply the right thing to do? Shouldn’t Christians show love and kindness to the world only to make it a better place, not just because of the promise of an “allowance” from their parent?
Here’s the thing, and it’s something many Christians don’t want to see or hear, there are a lot of people in the world who don’t believe in Christ or any religion or deity, and they are still good and kind people. They don’t need Jesus to wash away their sins and alleviate them from guilt. They find a way to do that on their own. They see the mistakes they made, work through their guilt over those mistakes as best they can, and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Just because a person is born again, it doesn’t mean that they are guilt free. As humans, our conscience doesn’t want to allow that, mainly because our brain is telling us that we need to learn from those mistakes. If we tell ourselves that we are simply absolved via an outside source and we allow ourselves to believe it, did we really learn anything? I suppose that we then go back to the argument that Christians must be good from now on because they want that “allowance” or want to avoid punishment.
Perhaps, it’s time to look at things a different way. Perhaps it’s time to start doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. Treat others with kindness and respect regardless of their religion or lack thereof. Turn the other cheek. Look at others with true empathy by trying to put yourself in their shoes. Start listening more and talking less. Start lifting others up instead of looking down on them. Live by example, not by words. Love more, hate less. And for the Creator’s sake, stop being so judgmental. If something someone else does has no effect on you personally and isn’t hurting anyone (other than possibly themselves), stay out of it-What they do is between them and their conscience. And above all, and I think this is the most important thing, remember the “golden rule.”-Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
Also, stop blaming the devil for every wrongdoing and take some personal responsibility. The devil didn’t make you do it. You made a bad choice. Deal with it accordingly and learn from it.
Although there are some terrible things and, yes, terrible people in this world, there are a lot of wonderful things as well. For instance, the beauty found on this planet is awe-inspiring. And, speaking of which, don’t forget all the art-paintings and sculptures; amazing music; and the writings of thousands of talented authors.
Instead of striving to be a better person because of some perceived rewards, allow the light of kindness and love to shine through your life as a thank you for all that you have and not for what you can earn. If God exists in whatever form, I would think that they would want you to simply love and appreciate them just for giving you the chance to experience this crazy ride. In other words, start living in the moment and not just for the future. And stop believing you’ve got the moral high-ground. Contrary to your opinion, you don’t hold the monopoly on morality.
And by the way, just so you know, believing in your God because of what He can do for you? That’s one of the seven deadly sins. Remember that one? It’s called greed.