I would be a liar if I said that it has not been a struggle to remain a believer. There are numerous reasons for the difficulty I’ve had maintaining the faith and each reason has enough content to have a book on its own. But for tonight, there is one particular reason that I have reflected on.
This past year I’ve had a lot of time to learn and meditate on a handful of different religions from around the world. It started when I read a book about contextualized Jesus worship as an evangelism method to reach the Islamic world. That book motivated me to learn more about Islam. Over Christmas break last year, I met Mormon missionaries who visited my house twice a week to try to convince me to be baptized under the authority of their Prophet and consequently I learned a lot about Mormonism. As the year went on, I learned more about other religions, and more about the ones I already knew about.
The more I knew, the more I wondered. I wondered why people been motivated to create religions, and why they have been so persistent to follow them. It became somewhat apparent that human beings crave understanding beyond what is tangible through the senses. We all want answers to questions which might not ever have scientific answers. We are all scared of the unknown things in the universe so we seek for some sort of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. I began to question my own motivates for believing. Could it have been that I longed for the very things that lead people to create and believe in their religions? Is it possible that my experiences with God were fabrications that I made up in my mind to fulfill those things I have desired for? In all honesty, I’m not sure. If I searched all my life, I’m not sure if I could have come to a definitive conclusion that would erase those questions from my mind.
Yet, there is one conclusion that I have reached about Christianity, and it is for this reason among others that I have been able to stay in love with Jesus. All other religions, in their search for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment have created a standard for their believers that must be achieved in order to receive the desired result from that faith system. All other religions that I am aware of require their adherents to perform rituals, sacrifices, or meet lifestyle codes in order to be closer to God or to be closer to truth. In different words, their primary focus is behavior adjustment. In order to be able to ___________, you must first _____________. Before truth, before God, before heaven, you need to be exactly what that religion says you should be.
In Christ I find something more beautiful. Jesus isn’t after rituals, he isn’t after sacrifices, and I would go as far as to say that he isn’t after your behavior. He is after the individual. So much so that you don’t have to do anything for him to love you and try to reach you. He comes for you where you are. He’s just waiting for you to call him to make himself known to you -I use use those words because I believe with great conviction that Jesus is with you long before you are aware of it.
While there are expectations for believers, lifestyle codes which must all do our best to adhere to, our failure does not result in marginalization. Our salvation in Christ is based on the fact that when we die to him, we are united in him. The only action that is placed upon us to fulfill is the acceptance of Jesus as our Savior. The rest is up to him. Our salvation cannot be taken away as a result of our moral failures as long as were are united in him. Moreover, the expectations for believers are not ours to fulfill on our own. For this task, God gives us his Spirit. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the Spirit that dwells in us, interceding for us on our behalf, and giving us the wisdom to live in the Spirit. Although the inner conflict between the flesh and the Spirit will persist in our bodies until the eschatological redemption of our mortal bodies, we are not left helpless to fight the fight on our own. The love of Jesus and the Spirit the dwells are given to transform us for the purposes of the Father. For that I am ever thankful.
So even though I am constantly working out my faith, searching for truth, and trying to grow in Jesus, I have comfort in the uniqueness of the faith in which I partake. Who knows what discoveries I will make as I reason through the things I experience in life, or if I will ever even be able to find answers so concrete that I will never have to as again. But for now I have hope in God.