Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Meaning of Life, part 1

An Introduction to Life With God

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says it’s 42. Darwinism says it’s survival. Western media suggests it’s pleasure. Tragically, many have taken their own lives because they didn’t think it existed. Others choose not to think about it at all.

As the title betrayed, I’m talking about the Meaning of Life. Regardless of whether we’re young or old, rich or poor, what we drive, where we live, what education we have, who our family is, what our nationality is, if we’re married or single, if we have kids, or even where we’ll get our next meal - this question is fundamental to everything else in our lives.

We Behave What We Believe
Everyone has a belief system; it’s no secret. We may have sought to think it through or we may have accepted what we’ve been taught and shown throughout our lives without questioning it. Either way, we all have certain beliefs about life - and these beliefs determine how we see ourselves, how we see others, and what we do. Our beliefs determine if we bow to the will of others, if we only live for ourselves, or if we live somewhere in-between. They determine who we vote for, what makes us happy, what we buy, how we spend our time, what we get angry at, and how we treat our relationships.

Jews and Muslims believe pigs are unclean so they abstain. Soldiers believe their country is good so they fight. Passengers believe an airplane will fly so they board. Social workers believe children have value so they advocate. Racists believe they’re superior so they enslave. Gamblers believe they‘ll win so they gamble. While these are a little simplistic, these examples do illustrate that what we believe about the world matters. Our beliefs significantly impact who we are and what we do, whether our beliefs are ultimately true or not. That makes our beliefs very important.

The True Belief System
If beliefs can be untrue, then what is true? God is true and his revelation is true. The Bible is inspired by a God who knows the meaning and true function of everything because he created it. He’s the one that judges truth from lie. In fact, the Bible judges many worldviews found in the world today as false and destructive. God says that possessions, honor, influence, and external beauty are empty without internal character. He teaches that our identity and our destiny are not determined by ancestor-spirits, stars, chance, sculptures of wood and stone, or any other so-called god or goddess, including ourselves.

On the other hand, the Bible shows us that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only true God. It tells us that God gives us all inherent value – body, mind and spirit. He offers us all free unconditional and sacrificial love. He knows what will harm the fragile and precious harmony within ourselves and in our relationships so he gives us instructions on how to preserve it. This is God’s truth.

Since the Bible has so much to say about the world, what then does it have to say about the meaning of life? Why are we here? Do we have a purpose here? If so, what are we supposed to do here? If I may be so bold, I think it can be said quite simply. We are created to love God, be loved by him, and love others with the love he first gave us. It’s that simple and it’s that rich (Luke 10:25-28, Matt 7:12, 1 John 4:19, 1 Cor 13:13).

I say it’s simple because if we keep this in mind and have a genuine desire to live it out, then we can’t stray far from the straight and narrow path that leads to ultimate joy, peace, fulfillment and life. But I say it’s rich because books have been written explaining the beauty and all-encompassing nature of each part of this statement. It applies to every single part of life.

In fact, what I just offered is a summary of a much larger story. Scripture – and really existence – contains a “metanarrative.” What I mean is that even though there are various perspectives and individual episodes, there is one over-arching story that ties it all together from beginning to end. And the beautiful thing is that every single one of us plays a meaningful part in that over-arching story, which isn’t over yet.

This epic story has rich themes that bind it together intricately including relationship, faith, covenant, God’s pleasure, dwelling with God, glorifying God, and serving others. And importantly, this story defines the words in the summary above that need to be defined. Who is God? Who are we? How do we know? What is love? How does God love us? How should we show our love for him? How should we show our love for others?

The story of the Bible is our story and in the next posts, I’d like to give some key points of this story that greatly answer the questions I just asked. Since in this blog I’ll be writing a lot about the Bible, these answers will help lay the groundwork to build the rest on.

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