Why Christianity? | Thinking Through The Narrative of Your Life {Marqueze K}

In 1931, historian James Truslow Adams coined the term “The American Dream.” He described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” As Americans, we tend to live by this narrative. We live with the idea that if we work hard enough we can achieve whatever we put our mind to. This is why we constantly tell stories and produce movies where the underdog comes out on top. We love hearing rags to riches stories because we can often see ourselves in them. This idea of reaching the American Dream is what allows us to work long hours and sacrifice short-term happiness in hopes that one day it will all be worth it. Whether or not we ever reach this dream is irrelevant to the motivating factor it has to keep us going.

Thinking Through Narratives

Narratives play a larger role in our lives than we often give them credit for. Living the American Dream was just one example out of many. Human beings have been telling and living narratives as far back as we can trace. In a world that can so often seem cold and ruthless, narratives help motivate us to keep going and to strive for something greater. Religion has filled this role for thousands of years across many different cultures. It has helped people recognize that there is a higher purpose past what can be immediately seen or grasped. It allows you to play a role in something that is far bigger than just you. With a growing amount of people in America identifying as Atheist or Agnostic, the question arises, what narrative will you choose to live by?

For the next couple of minutes I want you to put all your beliefs about the supernatural aside. Whether you believe that a supreme being governs the world or that a Jewish peasant 2000 years ago could raise from the dead is irrelevant to the concept I want to get across to you today. I’m not saying that Christianity comes without its supernatural beliefs since it very obviously does. Rather I just don’t want any presuppositions about the supernatural to hinder you from exploring the benefits Christianity can have on your life.

Showing Love To Others Helps Give You A Sense Of Belonging

So what is it that makes this Christian narrative so attractive? Why should you choose to live your life according to this story rather than some other one, or maybe none at all? Everything we do in this life we do in relation to other people. As humans we rely on community and bonds made over our time existing on this earth. Christianity recognizes this reality and therefore puts an incredibly strong focus on our treatment of others. As Christians we are told to love one another. Jesus puts this neighborly love right next to loving God. In a world that often tells us to focus on ourselves and worry about our own security, Jesus tells us that others come first. Helping others is beneficial for both the other person and yourself. Showing love to others helps give you a sense of belonging. It allows you to recognize that you can also play a role in the happiness of others. It allows to build better and stronger relationships. Best of all, it helps break cycles of hate and creates cycles of love and selflessness.

The Christian story is one of inclusion, not exclusion. In the gospels, Jesus very purposely tends to break all the rules for a person in His culture. As a righteous man He should not be eating with tax collectors and sinners. So what does He do? He eats with tax collectors and sinners. Those who are sick and cast to the outskirts of society by the religious rulers are brought back into grace with Jesus. They are promised to be part of the kingdom of God when the kingdoms of this earth would not let them in. Paul, who was one of the earliest Christian pastors/preachers/theologians/missionaries or whatever you would like to call him, recognized this need for the inclusion and belonging that he found in Jesus and chose to spread it outside of the Jewish movement. When was the last time that you felt excluded or uncared for? When was the last time you made someone else feel as if they weren’t welcomed? Christianity fights against this and recognizes that as humans we are all connected as children of God and therefore that we should all be treated as such.

Christians Are Called To Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

The Christian story is one that places a strong emphasis on care for the poor. Jesus makes this incredibly apparent throughout the gospels. Caring for the poor becomes a necessity for anyone calling themselves a Christ follower. Jesus Himself does this in a number of ways, whether that be feeding those who are hungry or healing those who couldn’t afford it. For example, in first century Palestine (the area which Jesus would have been) Jews would go to the temple in order to sacrifice to God and be cleansed of their sins (evils). One would go to the temple, pay a tax to the religious elite, and then sacrifice to God. In this culture, sickness was often paired with sin. Therefore if you were sick or had some type of disease you were seen as having lived in sin and needed to be cleansed of this sin by sacrificing to God at the temple. The problem with this is that the poor were not able to participate in these temple sacrifices because they had no money. If they needed to borrow money or animals to sacrifice they would end up going into debt which then continues this cycle of poverty for them. For those who did have some money, they would spend it in order to sacrifice at the temple which would leave them even more poor which results in malnutrition which causes the cycle to continue on and on. Jesus breaks this cycle. Not only does He condemn the temple for these practices but He begins to heal people outside of the temple. The one time He does heal people inside of the temple there is never any mention of Him charging to do so.

One of the most recognizable healings from the gospels occurs when Jesus heals a paralytic man in a house. When Jesus sees this man He tells him that his sins are forgiven (remember, sin is tied with sickness). When the religious elite condemn Jesus for trying to cleanse this man of his sin- Jesus then heals him and commands the man to pick up his mat and walk away. The man then walks away healed. This man who almost certainly could not work because of his physical condition and therefore would have not been able to sacrifice at the temple was restored by Jesus. While the religious rulers were concerned with ritualistic practices and money, Jesus was concerned for this man’s welfare. Has there ever been a time when you didn’t have the money to feed yourself or needed a helping hand because you were incapable of doing something yourself? Jesus calls us to be that helping hand. The poor, which historically are always the first individuals to be pushed to the side or disregarded as unimportant are the ones who need our love the most. Those who live into Christian narrative are called take care of those who the world often rejects.

Last but certainly not least, Christianity provides a rich history for us to be a part of. It begins with the promise to our forefather Abraham that he would have many offspring and that they would be a blessing to the rest of the nations. This promise produced a culture and people group who found themselves to be the chosen ones of God, though that didn’t stop them from making mistakes and going through hardships similar to the rest of us. This repetition of disobedience, punishment, restoration, and faithfulness eventually led to its culmination in Jesus Christ. Jesus ended this cycle so that it is no longer our works that we are judged upon but rather the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Himself. Those who decide to live into this narrative are blessed with the ability to live into His grace and love. We are no longer kept in bondage by our own nature but can live into something better. In a broken world that is inhabited by broken people, it can be helpful to know that the weight of justice isn’t simply on our shoulders, that Jesus has already won that fight and our job is to live in a way that recognizes His lordship.

What narrative do you live your life by? How do you see your role in this world? I choose to live my life within the Christian narrative because it best helps me understand myself and my relation to the rest of humanity. It allows me to look outside myself and focus on the bigger picture rather than what is right in front of me. It forces me to think twice before setting barriers between me and another in recognizing that we are all truly connected. Ultimately, Christianity allows me to love unconditionally and selflessly because I know that there is a God that has done the same for me. So I ask you once again, what narrative do you live by?

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