Saturday, June 3, 2017

You are Invited!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38 NLT

Recently, I had a few minutes to catch up with one of my most out-going friends. She fits the definition of extrovert. She's a super fun, welcoming and always thoughtful.  One thing I really admire about her is she never leaves anyone out.  When she hosts a party, she will invite everyone she knows to a party just so that no one feels excluded. As she shared her Catholic, Baptist and Non-denominational family history, I realized as I was talking with her that she mostly viewed religion as something that divides people and she didn't want to pick sides.  Choosing a religion meant that someone would be left out, kinda like hosting a party and excluding some people or in an even worse scenario,like choosing which parent to live with after a divorce. 

As I thought about her perspective, it reminded me of a chart my sister sent me a chart from Pew Research that showed people who identified religiously as "none" is a growing demographic. 
If inclusiveness is a goal of our society - why would one chose to exclude others just for their belief?  After talking to my friend, I realized that choosing "None" as your religious affiliation may be about not wanting to exclude anyone and avoiding conflict.  Religious beliefs, often, have this sense that "my way is best" which has led to horrible atrocities through history.  It is obvious that choosing a religion can lead to persecution- there have been horrible murders of Coptic Christians in Egypt including bombing of churches on Palm Sunday, on-going conflict in the Middle East boils down to a religious battle between Sunni's and Shiite Muslims, 276 Christian girls were kidnapped from their school by Muslim extremists in Nigeria, and students of history are appalled at the millions of people killed during the Holocaust just because they were Jewish. Why would anyone chose a religion?  Horrible situations like these show that choosing "none" can make a lot of sense; while you are not in the "Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptist, Sunni or Shiite Muslim club," you are also not alienating anyone and you are not being judged by the antics and failings of anyone else in the "club" either. 

So then why would anyone choose to believe in Jesus?  One of the key characteristics of Christianity is free will.  No one is born a Christian. Every person has the choice to choose to follow Jesus.  In contrast, people are born Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist.  I am not saying that you can't become any of these religions even if you aren't born one or leave those religions as an adult, just that no one is born a Christian. You may even be born into a Christian family but that doesn't make you a Christian. Every one of us has to make our own choice to believe.   

Over the years, I have answered the question, "Why believe in Jesus? for myself and others in different ways. In my youth, it boiled down to basic math. Believing in Jesus = eternal life, Choosing not to believe in Jesus = eternal hell. I was basically playing the odds.  As I explained to my 5th grade Hindu friend Indira, "What do you have to lose by believing in Jesus? If you are right, we will all be reincarnated and get another chance. If I am right, I'll go to heaven and you won't. Why risk it?"  

As I have gotten older, my view has morphed into being less about heaven and hell and more about living the abundant life here and now, as I wrote about in my blog Know Jesus Know Peace.  Accepting Jesus means greater purpose and understanding of our value.  So many people are searching for more. They desperately seek to find peace and contentment. They are overwhelmed and really struggling.  My heart's desire for everyone is not to just join the "Christian club" but to personally know Jesus.  Rather than identifying with a religion, I want them to know that they are deeply and passionately loved, that there is nothing they could do that could ever earn God's love and nothing they could do that could separate them from God's love.  

Have you ever gotten an evite to an event where the guest list is hidden? They always make me a little skeptical. It is way more fun to accept an invitation when you realize your best friends will all be at the party. While religion can have an "us versus them" perspective, Jesus has issued an invitation to the whole world, he doesn't want to exclude anyone, all you have to do is click accept. Here's how the writer Paul explains accepting the invite, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9  I have accepted the invite, I can't wait to see you there too! 

How would you answer the question, "Why do you believe in Jesus?" or "Why don't you believe in Jesus?" Take a minute to share your thoughts.  Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus showed me how to have a relationship with the DIVINE--how to be both human and divine. Because of Jesus, I am one with the divine, my creator and greatest lover of me. To live in the knowledge and reality of that is incredibly liberating, empowering!

    Thank you for another great word.