(Written Wednesday 4th June 2003)
We are currently in the middle of Jesus Week, which will culminate on Saturday with ‘March for Jesus’, an event celebrated by Christians in over 130 nations around the world. It therefore seems an appropriate time to respond to three questions. Who is Jesus? What does He want? Why is it important?
Jesus is a historical figure who is described in the Bible and the Koran as the Messiah. According to the Bible, Jesus is God’s Son who paid for the sins of all mankind by his death. He rose from the dead, and His ascension to heaven triggered a series of prophetic events, one of which will be His return to earth to judge all people for their behaviour.
Jesus wants us to accept and help each other, and to cultivate a personal relationship with God. He also wants us to develop mature attitudes towards our responsibilities, and unselfish motives for our behaviour. Depending on the quality of our political, corporate and social environments, behaving responsibly can lead to prosperity and influence, or to poverty and persecution. Jesus therefore does not want us to judge, envy, nor despise each other. We do not choose the environment into which we are born, but we have a responsibility to improve the environment where we live.
Why is this important? Everyone has a philosophy of life, or a primary reason for living, which governs his or her behaviour. Those who find it challenging to articulate their primary reason for living, define it through their actions. The most popular philosophy of life is survival, and it appears to have been adopted by individuals as well as political, corporate, and social institutions. The culture of this philosophy values the pursuit of pleasure, wealth, fame, and/or power. This philosophy is intrinsically unfair and has superficial winners and real losers.
Jesus offers a philosophy of life that is ultimately fair to everyone. This reason for living is described in the Bible as the Kingdom of God, and everyone who adopts the culture of this Kingdom finds fulfilment.
In God’s Kingdom, the focus is not placed on where you have gone, but rather on how you got there. Not on what you had but on how you obtained it. Not on what you did, but on how you did it. The process is much more valuable than the end result. The end result is illusionary since the desire for pleasure, wealth, fame, and power is insatiable. Focusing on the end result can be an effective motivating factor and related achievements can bring a measure of accomplishment. However, while such benefits are temporary, the process can be an eternal investment or an eternal liability.
People can obtain the same positions or possessions through both unethical and ethical means. In the Kingdom of God, the end never justifies the means.
School certificates can be obtained by cheating or through studying. Both approaches result in the same certificates. However, cheating is a liability while studying is an investment. Similarly, promotions and job opportunities can be obtained by bribes, prostitution, threats, nepotism, and political connections and contributions, or through cultivating a professional reputation through an adherence to high professional standards.
Material possessions can be obtained through gambling, bribes, prostitution, violence, threats, lying, and stealing, or through hard work and sound investments. Profitable businesses can be obtained through corruption, political association, exploitation of labour, spreading rumours about competitors, and negative advertisements, or through responsible management and marketing practises.
Sexual pleasure can be obtained through rape, fornication, and adultery, or with your spouse in marriage. A spouse can be obtained through deceit or honesty. Mistakes can be covered up, lied about, aborted, and blamed on others, or accepted.
Those who adopt the philosophy of survival are vulnerable to the temptation to compromise their beliefs, principles, or integrity in order to survive. Jesus noted that those whose primary motive was survival would ultimately lose their life. Jesus also promised that those who lost their lives for His sake and the Kingdom’s would ultimately find it. The stresses and disillusionment associated with the survival philosophy can be replaced with peace, joy and confidence, by trusting Jesus and entering the Kingdom of God.