I became a Christian on October 24, 1987. I felt my unworthiness, weakness and inability to reconcile my sinful state before God on my own. I did my best to live a pure, sinless life so I could be an example for others. My belief came to be based on the certainty that living a holy life now would lead to a rewarding life after death.
When I went off to Bible College to study for my Bachelor of Theology these concepts became even more defined. I formed a bubble around me that would keep me from being contaminated by the “world.”
As I endeavored to live this life, I began to look more closely at what I believed and how I lived. I became concerned with the inconsistencies I saw in myself and in the Church. I struggled with the disconnect I felt between what the Church was becoming and what Jesus actually taught.
So often the Church has been marked more by who we judge than by who we love. We’ve become more concerned with being ‘right’ than being ‘real.’ Instead of being an advocate for the marginalized, we’ve come to be recognized as oppressors. We’ve used the Bible to dehumanize those we feel don’t measure up to ‘Biblical Standards.’
Belief, for me, started to become defined more by doubt than by certainty. How can we live as followers of Christ when we are walking in a different direction than he is?
A few years ago, I read Isaiah 61 and the words just jumped out at me.
The Spirit of GOD, the Master, is on me
because GOD anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners. – Isaiah 61:1 MSG
Jesus quoted this very passage in Luke 4 in his home synagogue. It felt like I was sitting there 2000 years ago listening to him declare those words. I looked into his eyes and I believed him.
Reading the Gospels took on a whole new light for me. He didn’t just say those things, he lived them. He expanded upon them and taught us that we could join him. The Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew is a great example. Looking at the ‘blessed are’ statements in Matthew 5 made it all seem real. My belief in his mission climaxed with the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
I saw radical teaching and transformative words, where before I had just seen an ideal. This radical Jesus captivated me. I realized that I had missed the point for so much of my Christian life. His incarnation, his death, his resurrection are all of the utmost importance. I believe this with all my heart. What I had been missing was the life he had lived in between.
Jesus didn’t just come to prepare me for life after death. He came to prepare me to live life before death. A life like the one he demonstrated as he walked the shores of Galilee, the narrow streets of Jerusalem, and the rolling hills of Nazareth. He showed me that God really is love; that he really does care.
Jesus didn’t just come to prepare me for life after death. He came to prepare me to live life before death.
Jesus came to the sick, oppressed, marginalized, and dehumanized. He brought the message of hope and of love. He sought to rehumanize those who were beaten down. Blind beggar – sight restored. Unclean leper – touched and made whole. Publicans and sinners – noticed and affirmed. A young man carrying the weight of discouragement and doubt – encouraged and enlightened.
Jesus spoke to me and rehumanized me just like he has done for many through the ages. He saw me and restored my hope. This is why I believe.
You can find more people sharing the reason for the hope that they have here: Why Believe?
Colin MacDougall is a business owner and author in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His books include: Serving Up God: My Workplace as a Ministry and The God-Revealer. You may catch him at the Sweet Hereafter Cheesecakery if you’re ever in Halifax and want to drop in and say hello.