If one were to take a survey with the sole purpose of determining what people think is their reason for existing; the results would be as varied as the people asked. Many people would say their reason for being is to make money, others would say it is to raise a family, still others would say it is to be a leader in a particular field. Religious people would say it is to attend church and follow the rules set forth. Angry people would say it is to change the world. Beaten down people would say it is to support someone else.
Perhaps there might be an element of truth in many of these answers, but in reality there are only a few reasons for living. The first and foremost reason is to worship and give praise to our Creator who put us here. Without His very life within us, we would not have a life to begin with. Praise and thanksgiving to our God for allowing us to live is the foundation for understanding our purpose in living.
The other predominant reason for being here is to help others. Compassionate care for those in need defines love. Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Moses said the same thing. Paul said the same thing. John said the same thing. Peter said the same thing. David said the same thing. Woven throughout the Bible is the underlying concept that the very purpose we have in being alive is to love and worship God and to love everyone we come in contact with.
During Jesus “Sermon on the Mount”, he laid out some basic principles to being “blessed” known as the Beatitudes, and then spent a very long time describing the details of how to live righteously before God and how to manifest love to each other. Many of the things Jesus brought up were already found in the Old Testament, but many things he taught were new and extremely revolutionary for his time.
Little of what Jesus ever taught was easy to do. Everything he taught was simple, but not easy to carry out. A simple command would be; “Go to the store and get a gallon of milk”. At first glance this is a very simple statement that should not be too difficult to carry out. But, what if there is a huge blizzard going on and instead of driving, you have to walk through 3 foot snow to get to the store? What if the store was 10 miles away? What if it was the middle of the night? Simple statements may be easy to say but very hard to do.
A classic example of this is found in those of us attempting to lose weight. It is a very simple thing for a Doctor to tell us; “You need to lose 50 pounds.” That is a easy sentence to say but a very difficult one to carry out. The same thing holds true with any addiction, whether smoking or drugs or alcohol. It is very easy to say; “Just say NO.” or “Just quit doing it.” But addictions are far too involved and complex of issues to be resolved by simply saying “NO”. Chemical dependency necessitates professional help to overcome usually.
Another classic example is found in “housebreaking” a puppy. It is simple to say; “Stop peeing on the carpet.” But the dog is unable to understand words and thus not capable of doing what it is told. The dog must be taught and through repetition it learns to go outside to do its “thing”. It is truly amazing how quickly a dog can learn new habits and thus obedience to new commands if they are taught how to do them. People are the same way.
People cannot simply be yelled at and told to “Stop sinning”. Whatever the sin is that they are doing has probably been there for many years and consists of strong habit patterns that must be broken and replaced with new ones before they can obey the command. Too many times, religious leaders lose patience with people thinking they don’t want to change, when in reality they don’t know how to change. The development of new habit patterns takes instruction, practice and repetition to ever take place.
Jesus was the expert at both stating profoundly simple statements, but also laying out the practical application of how to do them. He did not simply tell people “Stop it”; he showed them how. Time and again in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus introduces a profound and revolutionary new way of thinking and living with the phrase; “You have heard” or “It has been written” or “It has been said.” After introducing the subject, he then presents a whole new way of approaching it. One of the more difficult ones was when Jesus said in verses 43 and 44 the following:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy”.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
It is easy to love your friends, but Jesus said to love your enemies. It is easy to bless them that bless you, but Jesus said to bless them that curse you. It is easy to do good to them that love you, but Jesus said to do good to them that hate you. It is easy to pray for them who take care of you and build you up, but Jesus said to pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.
We live in a culture that demands justice and restitution for every bad thing said and done. We live in a culture that dictates “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Go back some time and read verses 38 through 42 and see what Jesus had to say about this subject. In a nutshell, he said to resist not evil, but whoever smites you on the right cheek, turn and let him smite you on the left one also.
We have spent billions upon billions of dollars resisting evil, hating our enemies, cursing them which curse us, doing evil to those who hate us and never praying for any of those people and nations responsible for the attack on September 11, 2001. This supposedly “Christian” nation has violated every one of Christ’s rules he introduced in Matthew 5. In our zeal to render evil for evil and to “pay back” those who dared smite us on the cheek; we have dug our nation into a hole from which there is no way out.
We have sacrificed thousands of our very best young men and women to the gods of revenge, hate and greed. We have spent enough money to totally eliminate poverty and hunger on military missions that amounted to dropping atomic bombs on someone who spit in our face. No lessons were learned from the Viet Nam fiasco, for the same fiasco has now taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our quest to prove to the world how big, bad and mean we are; we have shown how small, weak and vindictive we really are.
If the Gallup poll stating this country is 80% Christian is right, then this country is made up of more hypocrites than all the other countries in the world combined. The Christian response to being provoked is to turn the other cheek, love, bless, do good and pray for those who seek to harm us. How can our enemies think anything but evil of us when all we want to do is destroy them? How can non-Christians think anything good about us when we behave in the same manner as them?
It is high time for the so-called Christian majority in this country to stand up and speak the truth in love. The answers to the world’s terrorist problem are not found in the might of the United States Military machine. The answers to the world’s financial woes are not found in the strength of the United States dollar. The answers to the world’s poverty problems are not found in the greed of United States capitalistic corporations. No, the answers to any of the world’s problems are found in Christians doing what their supposed Lord and Master taught them to do.
Our purpose in living is not to overcome the world. Jesus did that 2,000 years ago. Our purpose in living is to show the world the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the line we as a nation got off track and instead of reaching out to help our enemies, we now feel obligated to crush them. Instead of praying for those who want to destroy us, we pray for might to destroy them. Instead of “heaping coals of fire” on the heads of those who hate us to warm them with love; we heap bombs of fire on them to burn them up.
There is no New Testament justification for war. Peter thought there was on the night Jesus was apprehended. He took out his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus immediately healed the guard and rebuked Peter. Jesus said; “He who lives by the sword will also die by the sword.”
I pray daily for the safety of our troops. I pray daily God allows them to return home as quickly as possible. I pray daily for those who make decisions that they realize the error of their ways and stop living by the sword. That is all I can do. That, and write things like this in hopes it stirs a few to stop and think about the hypocrisy of our militaristic response to evil.