Why follow Jesus? The Gospel needs meaning to be applied.

My friend Tricia is a great teacher and she was recently telling me about a class she’s taking on teaching adult learners. It sounds like a class all of our cell leaders should take (then again, I like being in the classroom—I know that’s not everyone’s idea of a fun Friday night). One of the things she is learning in the class (and otherwise) is the importance of leaders, teachers, and instructors to explain the why of their application.

So often we move to the “what” or even the “how” before we explain why. Why is a big question, though, because understanding the motive and the reasoning behind the things we are given to do is elemental to the work that we do. When we are frustrated with a problem or stuck in an ethical dilemma. When we can’t seem to get our goal accomplished, or the resistance we face just seems too hard. When we feel deserted and alone. When all of that is happening, the reason for our task, the motivation of our conviction, and even the very purpose of our lives needs to be clear or at least clearer.

Some people are in so much despair that they need a reason to get up in the morning. That existential problem has haunted humanity for a long time. The French existentialists, on the backs of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, finally declared all of the constructs of our world absurd at best, nauseating at worst. They found freedom in that meaninglessness because they could become the author of meaning themselves. I appreciate the effort, and honestly, the deconstruction of the false meanings the world is full of.

If you’re not one for Simone de Beauvoir, or Jean Paul Sartre, or Albert Camus though, you might like Seinfeld’s take. Kramer is looking for his own meaning in his life, one that was previously muted by access to Jerry’s apartment, and now he faces his barren life. He wants to move to Los Angeles and find new meaning. He berates George to convince him also of the meaninglessness of his to try to get him to exchange keys with him.

“Do you ever yearn?”

“Do you have any conceivable reason for even getting up in the morning?”

Good questions, prophet Kramer. George is defensive but being convicted about the pointlessness of his life. I think it’s funny because it’s true. People really need the “why.” They need a reason, both existentially and beyond that.

For me, my reason and my grounding is rooted entirely in Jesus. Jesus sets the direction for my life and offers me my vision.

So, of course, why Jesus?

I can’t answer this question for everyone, obviously. Or even as an abstraction. But maybe you can add your own thoughts in the comment section.

Following Jesus is very personal for me. I don’t have a philosophy or a doctrine that proves that you should follow Jesus. It’s all about my experience with him. I guess that makes me a postmodern millennial, that and my penchant for eating avocados (please, though, no lime in guacamole).

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Jesus changed my life. I remember having an impossible time believing that the God of all—the one Evangelicals seem to force into the “Father” in the Trinity—loved me. My dad was loving in his own way, but I often perceived him as condemning. Surely, God the Father would be the same way. I didn’t believe Paul in Romans 8 when he said there was no condemnation in Jesus and that nothing could separate me from the love of God. The idea that I was set free from death was foreign to me. I hear it all my life, but I didn’t believe it because it was never practically expressed!

 

But then, I read John 15 again. Jesus called me a friend. I’m not sure why that verse is so powerful to me, but it finally made me realize that I am one with God. That connection is very meaningful to me; I don’t need an authority figure, a cosmic entity that threatens me (or is indifferent to me), or even one that I need to submit to. I need a friend who loves me. That’s the heart of the incarnation and the heart of my faith. Of course, you might need to do some work to get to the point where a 2,000-year-old phrase on a piece of parchment impacts you, but it did for me. I was looking for another chance at family. Another chance to redeem the image of father (in God, in my dad, and later on in my life, myself). I found it in Jesus.

And to be honest, I didn’t find it elsewhere. I explored many other philosophies, some of which are still close to me, but the redemption and the closeness that I felt with God through Jesus is incomparable.

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Largely, it is incomparable because I found it vividly expressed in community. And specifically in Circle of Hope. The community loved me, accepted me, and discipled me. I’m still benefiting. The love of Jesus, that intimate love that he shared with his disciples at the end of his life, was there for me in community. I’m glad I shared this because now I feel motivated!

My personal story and experience is exactly why I fulfill the Great Commission today and make disciples of all nations. It’s why I want to change the world. Jesus informs my action today because of what he did in my life. My “why” for Jesus is personal and that’s why I share it with you today. I’m inviting you to try it because it worked for me.

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