People today are inundated with various belief systems and truth claims: major religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and others make claims about God and reality; philosophical systems, such as modernism, postmodernism, communism, scientism, etc. attempt to make sense of the world as is. What should people accept as true? Should people believe in one of these religions or systems or mix and match according to what makes sense to them? Many people are left baffled and confused by all of these belief systems and truth claims and often despair of coming to a knowledge of truth. How, after all, can truth really be known when there are so many options?
Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). His earliest followers believed that He was the source of truth, knowledge, and wisdom, that they should be rooted in Him and His truth and from His perspective then attempt to understand other truth claims (Colossians 2:1-10). So is this true? Why should someone choose Christianity over these other belief systems and truth claims?
What we believe and why are shaped and framed by many factors including the culture in which we are born and live, the influence of our families, friends, and educators, and our experience with people and their beliefs. Many people are Christians because they were raised to believe in Jesus or were befriended by someone who followed Jesus and were persuaded to follow Him. Jesus did expect His followers to model love and faithfulness and knew that many would be attracted to Him because of that behavior, and such is well and good (Matthew 5:13-16, John 13:35). But why should we or anyone else understand the world the way Jesus did?
In short we do well to understand the world the way Jesus did because it makes the best sense of the reality in which we presently live and gives life hope and meaning. Life on earth is simultaneously beautiful and ugly, astonishing and horrifying: we can see both great beauty and horrific ugliness in the creation and in the human spirit. The story told in the Bible best explains how this could be: God created the heavens and the earth as very good yet it was corrupted by the introduction of sin and death through Adam (Genesis 1:1-3:21, Romans 5:12-18). The beauty of God’s creation can still be seen, but so can the corruptions of sin, decay, corruption, and death.
This paradox is seen in humanity as well: at times people can do amazingly good and beautiful things for one another, and at other times people can do horrifyingly terrible things to one another, and sometimes it may involve the very same people! The Bible speaks of how people have been corrupted by sin in their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and thus is it not within them to properly direct their own ways according to what they think is right (Proverbs 3:4-7, Jeremiah 10:23, Romans 3:10-23). People therefore are not generally good with a few flaws; we are corrupt down to our innermost being, living for pleasure in malice and envy, hating others and hated in turn (Ephesians 2:1-3, Titus 3:3). Humans would like to think that as long as their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds all will go well with them; nevertheless we can understand from our own legal and penal systems that once declared a transgressor in one aspect of the law, we are transgressors no matter what (James 2:9-10). On their own humans cannot solve their sin problem or the problem of evil that exists all around them: you cannot legislate evil away, educate evil away, or any other attempted solution people have tried to avert evil. Humans like to think their philosophies will make the world better; when applied most zealously they have only compounded human suffering (e.g. Communism).
On our own we humans have no hope (Ecclesiastes 1:2-12:8, Ephesians 2:11). Yet according to the Bible God loved us enough to do in Christ what we could not do for ourselves: in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection Jesus offered Himself up for our sins, suffering evil to the full, and overcoming both sin and death in the resurrection (Romans 5:6-11, 6:1-10, 8:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58, 1 Peter 2:17-25). The only way to overcome evil was to suffer it without giving into its force or power; the only way to overcome death is by entrusting ourselves to the God of the living. Since Jesus humbled Himself God exalted Him, declaring Him Lord and Christ, that is, Lord and King, declaring that all should serve Him (Acts 2:36, Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus is in control; therefore, we are not. Jesus is risen from the dead; we have confidence that there is more to life than this life, and we will be held accountable for what we have done (Acts 17:30-31).
In Jesus we have hope and meaning in life. Today we can be part of God’s Kingdom in Christ, to participate in His work, and maintain confidence in obtaining the resurrection of life on the final day in which the mortal body will put on immortality to be where there is no more pain, no more misery, where righteousness dwells (1 Corinthians 15:20-58, Colossians 1:13, Revelation 21:1-22:6). No other religion or belief system maintains such a belief or confidence; nowhere else can one find such a coherent explanation of both life in here and now and life in the hereafter in a way that honors the value of the present while maintaining hope for the future. In no other belief system is the problem of evil, sin, and death recognized for what it is and for such a solution to be as forthcoming.
These things were not done in a corner (Acts 26:26): Christians make the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure, who lived in the days of Tiberius Caesar, condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, but raised from the dead by God, of which His disciples were witnesses. Ever since Jesus of Nazareth has been a compelling figure and His claims demand consideration. We should choose to follow Jesus because He lived as God in the flesh, proved willing to die for our sins, was raised on the third day in triumph, ascended to the Father, reigns from heaven, and will return to judge the world. Let us follow Christ and obtain the resurrection of life!
Ethan R. Longhenry