I was watching a stand-up comedian the other day when he quipped, “I’m an atheist – you know, because I’m reasonable.”
The audience hooted with laughter and applauded. Of course, I was initially offended. I like to think of myself as a reasonable guy, and most Christians I know are pretty sensible folks. Then I thought about it and realized, “Okay, some of Christianity does sound unreasonable – like a man walking on water and emerging from his own grave. Plus, I know some Christians who are really ‘out there.'”
When I hear someone gripe about Christianity or take cheap shots at the church, I always invite them to take a look at Jesus. He is our Ultimate Guide, not a fallible preacher or churchgoer. We Christians fail and fall (just like everyone else), but if you dig just a bit under the surface of popular conceptions, you might discover that what Jesus taught is not so unreasonable, after all.
CHRISTIANITY OFFERS A SOLUTION TO SIN
In my mind’s-eye, I just saw someone roll their eyes when they read this heading. “Sin?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Didn’t that notion die out with bloomers and the Model T?”
This thinking is quite common: sin as a list of frivolous, outdated peccadilloes such as dancing, going to the movies, and taking a drink now and then. That’s a cultural definition of sin; the Bible has a radically different view. The scriptures liken sin to bondage, corruption, darkness — even death. Clearly this is more serious than committing a moral infraction that would bring a scowl to your great-grandmother’s face.
At some time or another, we all look inside and realize things aren’t entirely right. Something crucial is missing. We feel we don’t measure up. Peace and joy elude us. We want to do good, but keep bending toward behaviors that are unhealthy and unproductive. The sad part is, most of us try to break free in our own power or struggle to reform through self-help.
Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman puts it this way: “These actions are mostly the work of a false self, an ego that is broken and shamed and struggles frantically ‘to be better.’ But the heart of the Christian spiritual life is not through this path of an improved ego, but through the path of ‘death to self,’ in which we lose an existence that is not our true self, and learn an existence that is ours in Christ.”
Christianity is Christ, and Christ offers a path to overcoming the problem of sin that we all share: putting our identities not in the world or self, but in Him.
CHRISTIANITY OFFERS REAL HOPE
False hope abounds in our world. People hope that politicians, spouses, success or pleasures will give them what they want – but they are left disappointed, incomplete, unsatisfied. L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote, “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” In April 1942, Montgomery was found dead at her home, the supposed victim of coronary thrombosis. But others, including her granddaughter, believed she took her life, as she had suffered from depression.
Viktor Frankl, who survived the ordeal of a Nazi concentration camp, wrote extensively about hope. In his classic work, Man’s Search for Meaning, he explained that human beings do not need the “discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled.” This “potential meaning” is realized when a person turns from self to the Savior. As Oxford professor and author C.S. Lewis put it, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
Including hope – real hope grounded in God, not in wishful, self-centered thinking.
CHRISTIANITY OFFERS JOB SATISFACTION
The Conference Board, a global, independent research association, reports that 53% of Americans are currently unhappy at work. Most leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated by their bosses.
On the other hand, Christianity offers long-term job satisfaction. Somewhere I read that Christians are not teachers and lawyers and mechanics; they are really workers for God disguised as teachers, lawyers and mechanics. Ultimately we labor for God, not man.
Christians also know that we don’t serve a stern taskmaster, but a gentle Shepherd whose yoke is easy and burden light. We don’t stew about results, either. We plant and water seeds, and leave growth to the Holy Spirit. How wonderfully freeing this work is!
Yes, we who follow Christ can be unreasonable at times, but so what? Those who are loyal to a political party will tolerate an unreasonable leader in their ranks because they follow guiding principles.
Don’t base your conclusions of Christianity on the sensationalist TV preacher or a grouchy church member. First John 4:1 tells us to “test the spirits” – that is, examine claims in a wise and discerning manner. I have tested the claims of Jesus Christ and, more importantly, He has tested me. In a broken, hostile, absurd world, the Prince of Peace holds forth acceptance, hope, fulfillment, significance, strength and wonder.
If you refuse Him – and all that He has to offer — I submit that you might be the unreasonable one.