“People won’t remember what you said as much as they remember how you lived.” Our actions teach to everyone watching a lesson on how we view the world. What are we teaching? 1. Are we banking on all of our good works, nice acts, and fun times to be good enough to get into heaven, if there is some being out there who judges us in the end?
2. Have we chucked the idea of an ultimate being and absolute truth and decided to live by our feelings and self-interests?
3. Are we open to considering that everything exists inside the same story with only one author?
To the first question: If there is a God who will send good people to heaven, at what point would God be able to look at one person in comparison to everyone else and say, “That one has done enough to be granted eternity in my presence,”? If acceptance by God is dependent upon my performance for God, then I could never have any confidence of my acceptance by God.
A merit based life makes God into a sort of Santa Claus with a “naughty & nice” list. When people reject a “Clause” like religion they are rejecting a good thing, for if religion means hiding reality, putting on a label and doing “religious” things for the rest of our lives let’s call it quits right now.
To the second question: Make no mistake, we all believe in an ultimate being. Either a God, gods, spirits, or ourselves. Frustration with reconciling all of the hurt and tragedy in the world with the existence of a transcendent being can lead one to conclude self-dependence for all truth is the best route.
However, if there is no absolute truth, don’t all of our claims or beliefs become meaningless? In our attempt to adopt a worldview that makes better sense of the world we actually end up making less sense. By saying “truth is relative to each individual person” we ARE making an absolute truth claim for all people. We end up becoming what we fight so hard to avoid; being a person who believes there is absolute truth for all people.
To the third and final question: Are we open to admitting that whether we are attempting to look good in front of our friends and family by hiding the true condition of our heart or rejecting truth all together, the solution to our experience is ourselves? What if this is exactly why God sent Jesus all along? What if the story is that Jesus came to die for everyone who is exhausted with the failed project of trusting in themselves for truth, acceptance, belonging, joy, and ultimately, salvation?
The story is this: Jesus saves. In this story we are freed from being the originators of truth, a role we fail at miserably, to bear witness to the truth, a part for which we were born to play. God does this by gifting us Jesus. Jesus, who lived on earth perfectly, died on the cross sacrificially, and rose from the dead triumphantly, for a bunch of self-dependent people like us.
We receive the merits of Jesus’ work, eternal life, while he receives the merits of our work, death, by placing our faith in Christ alone. This is grace. This is our story.
Joey Turner is the pastor of student ministries at Patterson Park Church. Follow Joey on Twitter @JTurner_1 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org