What is the meaning of life? This is a question religion often seeks to answer. It is my belief that the meaning of life is, quite simply, to grow. The entire universe is changing, growing, and expanding. Our earth, our plants and geography and environment is constantly changing and growing. Our civilization is constantly growing in thought and knowledge. To me, the only meaning it seems that God would demand is that we should, in accordance with the rest of His universe, grow as well.
In the story “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, the natural state of man is exceedingly well clarified. The Noble prince Hamlet returns home from the equivalent of college to find that his father is dead and his mother has, in the space of one month, married his uncle. Hamlet is then visited by the vengeful spirit of his father, who orders Hamlet to kill his uncle. However, Hamlet hesitates, he is not able to simply “get the job done” as we might expect. This hesitation of Hamlet is a pivotal point in all of human history, and is highly relevant to Christianity.
Consider also, the ancient epic called “The Iliad.” Two massive armies fight a meaningless war for ten years for the sake of one woman, with only death and suffering as a reward. Consider “Catch-22,” in which we are forced to ask ourselves whether true craziness exists, or perhaps we are all a little bit crazy. Now think about history. Think about why we support governments that oppress their people, like the pre-Castro Government in Cuba, or Al-Queda in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of that country, or even supporting our (supposedly) most hated enemy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, during Iraq’s horribly costly war against Iran. Even today we support many oppressive governments such as Saudi Arabia, and for what purpose? Why do we Americans, the guardians of justice and equality and peace, support these evils and cruel dictators? We do it because we want the “stuff.”
We want gas, and cars, and big buildings and houses and planes and land and all those other things that supposedly give our life meaning. Pay no attention to what we have to do to get these things. Pay no attention to the billions of people it has, and continues, to hurt. We think we’ve come so far, but we haven’t at all, because we are mere humans. Our “original sin” has nothing to do with some distant relative eating a fruit. Our “original sin” leaves a much more real, tangible mark on us. It’s the fact that we are, in all ways and all situations, animals, and nothing more. We want what we want, and we create clever excuses to explain why we deserve to have what we want. It doesn’t matter though, because history proves again and again that our greed and irrational fear of death and desperation to survive leads us down this tragic path.
So back to the tragedy of Hamlet, who hesitates, desperately trying to decide what to do. What is our nature? Think now reader; if you saw this injustice, what would you do? Would you act to kill your uncle? Would you achieve revenge for your “honor” and “justice?” This is what’s natural isn’t it? But two thousand years ago, one man said that wasn’t right. One man took a stand that has, ever since, been the most unnatural stance, and has also proven to be the only way for humanity to make lasting progress. Consider this clear statement from our Savior:
“You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away. You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Is this idea natural? Is this what you want to do, when you have been wronged? Doesn’t it feel so much better to strike back, to hurt a person who hurt you back even more severely? But Jesus makes a clear statement here, a clear statement that we are to forgive always, even when it is difficult. We must always forgive people, but why is this? Is this really practical?
I remember a time when I didn’t think this could be practical, but now I have seen the truth that human history since our savior came is 2000 years of people desperately trying to ignore this fact. Countries ignore it, and they fight wars. People ignore it, and we kill one another. The world as a whole ignores it, and cannot be unified. Hamlet chooses to ignore this clear message from our savior, and he destroys himself. Until humans can learn to forgive one another, we will never make progress. It becomes clear to me that the divisons we create among ourselves, even in our Christian “denominations” have served to further this terrible manifestation of our human nature, our original sin.
God alone knows who is saved. No man or woman on this planet can clearly determine themselves or anyone else saved. However, Jesus to me, appears to be the clear way to salvation, not only for us as individuals, but for the entire human race. We may disagree on Virgin births, miracles, and the resurrection. We may bicker endlessly about the Bible and faith and works. However, all of this dogmatic nonsense is completely meaningless until we live the word of God our Father in heaven. I remember once seeing a sermon by a Baptist preacher who ranted and raved about being saved “through faith alone.” I disagreed with every single thing he said, and was about the close the webpage in disgust as I watched the young teenagers in his congregation scream in elated happiness. Then the preacher screamed “If your rebirth in Christ has not led to a change in your behavior, you are not truly born again.” Never have I felt such immediate respect for someone I disagreed with so strongly. And yet, we find so many new ways to ignore this fact every day it seems. We hear about more sacraments and rituals and endless new definitions of “faith,” and yet we march along like stupid cattle, blindly into the same mistakes we have always made, guilty of the same sins as our forefathers.
Today reader I address you as a Christian, and whether you are Roman Catholic or Born Again, Fundamentalist or Unitarian makes no difference. You have received a personal command from your only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, that you are to forgive in all situations, no matter what the difficulty you have endured. You are to do good always, to never objectify, to never cast judgment, and to love any man or woman as yourself. No church, no ritual, no sacrament, no Priest, no Minister, and no other excuse releases you from this commitment. You have the individual responsibility to live as Christ lived, whatever the cost. Feel free to send me a list of Bible verses that contain more of your excuses, because that’s all they are. You can clearly see the effect that your excuses and irresponsibility will have if you just pick up a history book. Humans will continue to fight, continue to pretend that our fake, invented theories of justice are correct, and we won’t even need God’s Hell to suffer for our sins, we will create that hell ourselves. Jesus Christ alone creates the escape from the maelstrom, and only from following Jesus Christ as a true Christian can you improve the world and hope for salvation; no other way will work.
This is why my faith in Christianity has been restored, this realization that only Jesus has provided us with such a selfless unnatural message. Our two thousand years of education and thought have only led us to invent new ways to kill each other and better ways to justify it, but God Himself told us how to save ourselves. I hope, no I pray, for the sake of all humans, that we will not disregard God’s sacred message. If we don’t, as I said before, we will not even need God’s hell to suffer for our sinfulness. Can people out there repent for their sins, be good people, and contribute to the growth of humanity without Christ’s message? I believe so, but I believe it is extremely difficult, and I do believe Christianity to be the only true way. God Himself decides who is saved and who is not, so I do not presume to pass judgment on anyone as saved or not saved. Nevertheless, living a true, honest, sincere Christian faith is all I see to provide salvation to me and humanity in general.
And now come the tough questions for Christians, the things we may not want to think about.
1.) Are you really saved by your faith? Does your faith lead you to contribute and help mankind to grow? Or is it simply empty theatrics?
2.) Why do you want material possessions? Why do you want a big house or car or boat or any of that crap? Jesus clearly tells us “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” Not only this, but all of your material possessions will be destroyed or passed on to someone else after you die. As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “All is vanity.” Why then, do we care so much about anything we get in this world?
3.) What is the obsession with sex, and with the opposite sex? Certainly we may want to fall in love, but why are we so shallow? Speaking as a man, why do you care about attractiveness in a woman? Today I could go out and find a million beautiful women, none more beautiful than the other. In fifty years, none of them will be beautiful anymore. But if I find a different woman, a faithful and thoughtful one, she will become beautiful and remain beautiful forever. Why then, do we care, about a woman being attractive? Doesn’t Jesus say not to do this as well?
4.) Why are we so obsessed with violence? We claim to be better than the ancient Romans, who liked to coop men up and watch them kill one another for sport (Gladiators.) Now we like to coop “boxers” and “ultimate fighters” up and watch them beat the crap out of one another. We like to create incredibly violent movies, and are always seeking even more graphically violent video games. Why can’t we let go of this sinful, naturalistic behavior?
5.) Why must we always divide, why must we always argue about “faith” and “works,” or the Bible and ignore what really matters? Is this scriptural nonsense really important, or is it just another convenient way for us to justify our nature’s desperate conviction to remain animals, rather than full humans in communion with God?
As Christians, it is time for us to ask ourselves these questions. It is time for us to stop making religious excuses for our behavior, and work as Jesus would have had us work. Before Baptism, before being born again, before anything we do, it is time for us to behave as Jesus Christ behaved. All else is meaningless, nothing else matters. Jesus Christ taught us the only lesson we can know is real, but the question is, will we decide to forget it?