What’s My Why?
I am a Christian because there are a lot of ways in which the world – everything from my heart to global power structures – is messed up. There are a lot of ways in which this world is alienated from its true nature, ways in which we are alienated from our true selves. And I am persuaded to believe that the way of Jesus is the best shot we have at being led home.
But why? “Why, Mike are you persuaded that the way of Jesus is the best shot we have?”
That’s fair. On one level, I acknowledge, being thus persuaded is a matter of luck, or rather inexplicable grace. I committed myself to this personally and professionally years ago, because, for whatever reason, the worship liturgy of my childhood worked as intended. When I was little, most Sundays I sat in the pew with my parents and brother and sister, at a very ordinary and rather boring Lutheran church. I fidgeted around, made noise, bothered my parents, and all the rest. But while all that was happening, without even knowing it, I was listening, observing, and absorbing. What I heard, and saw, and absorbed, was a vision of a different world, a different way in and for the world. In the hymns, I heard about love. In the confession, I heard about forgiveness. In the scripture readings, I heard about a guy who taught that mercy triumphs over judgment. In sermons, to which I was not actively listening, but which I heard anyway, I absorbed that I was part of a people who longed for something different, a better way. That kind of worship both shaped my view of everything, and as I got older opened pathways to digging deeper and discovering what the way of Jesus was all about.
As I can describe it now, one of the key features of the faith into which I was formed, the faith I found compelling even as a teenager, was that Christianity was seriously counter-cultural. The way of Jesus was not aligned with the powers that be, or with the American story, or even with other Christians who, already when I was kid, were using Christianity to defend the indefensible, like war and racism. For all of its pretty packaging – a bible with pages literally lined with gold, a glimmering cross, 300 year old hymns – I still heard the counter-cultural heart of Jesus. Jesus was a radical. And I loved it.
And now, a fair number of years down the road, I am still grieved that the world is messed up, from my heart to global systems, and I am still persuaded to believe that the way of Jesus – the way of grace, the way of mercy, the way of truth, the way of accountability with compassion, the way of love, even love that leads to death and resurrection, that is, the way of the cross – I am still persuaded to believe that if the church can embody the counter-cultural vision of the world taught and lived and loved by Jesus, and handed on to us through the ages, then we just might, all of us, all of this alienated, but beautiful world – we just might, all of us, be led home.
That’s my why.