In follow up to my blog of a couple of days ago, I was indirectly reminded by my friend Pam that in the Christian belief system, it seems that God wishes to work through people, using them instead of just performing outright miracles in everyone’s lives.
That got me to thinking though, if God lets a lot of things happen, and leaves us to work on fixing things rather than just doing it all himself, he must think that it’s really important for us to do so. It must be as important, if not quite possibly more important, for us to help others as it is for them to receive help. Or put in other words, though we don’t realize it, perhaps we need to help others more than they need to be helped. Think about that for a minute. That’s quite a different way of looking at things. (I think it’s important to know how to receive help too; indeed we will all have times and ways in which we can help others and times and ways in which we will need others’ help.)
I can buy this as a reasonable explanation for some of the questions I brought up. It seems to me this fits right in with Christ’s good news: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19/Isaiah 61:1-2). Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “believe in me so that you’ll go to heaven when you die” nor “follow me because you’ll have an easier, happier life” (the opposite is actually true).
People sometimes have pointed out, if the only point in becoming a Christian is so that you’ll go to heaven when you die, why doesn’t God simply whisk a person away to heaven as soon as they believe? When I’ve heard people talk about this, the answer I’ve heard is that we are left here in order that we might evangelize. I think that may not be quite true, as least not directly. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). Remember that Christ divided people based on whether or not they fed people when they were hungry, gave them a drink when they were thirsty, sheltered them when they had no place to rest, clothed them when they were in need, cared for them when they were sick, visited them when they were in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). As I partially explain in my paper on evangelism, I think it is through doing these things that we will be able to evangelize, and that they are in fact critical to evangelism.
This would be an appropriate place to point out that I don’t believe the main task of the Christian’s life is to not sin. I realize that may sound pretty controversial, and I know that a large part of typical christian teaching is about what you shouldn’t be doing. But I believe that the Christian’s life is to be lived purposely for something, not just against things. I think we are supposed to be living for certain values, the overarching one being a love of God and other people. And loving others isn’t a sentimental feeling so much as it means caring for them and seeking their good, even at our own expense. I think that while it may be hard and discouraging when focusing on not sinning directly, we will naturally begin sinning less when we are focused on loving others.
The problem however, is that it seems like the church is doing a really poor job putting this into practice. This causes many to believe that the church, Christianity, and perhaps even God are all shams—not real. If it is true, then the church really ought to start getting its act together, sooner rather than later.