I have often told people that, as I grew up, “Jesus always seemed like a fact to me.”
What I mean by that is this: I was raised by two parents who believed, and so the thought that Jesus did miraculous works, that He was born to a virgin, and that He died and was resurrected, seemed entirely plausible and reasonable to me. I never had a moment of thinking, “Wow, that seems pretty out-there and hard to believe.” My parents grew up treating the extraordinary as simple, acceptable truth, and so it was easy for me to embrace. They gave me the gift of being able to view the world as a place where amazing and strange and wonderful things can happen, where an epic, cosmic story – the story of God’s divine love for humans and His determination to save them at all costs – is not only real but makes a fundamental difference in my everyday life.
In this, I am not so different from the early pagan Celts who converted to Christianity. A professor of mine, discussing them once, pointed out that those pagans certainly struggled with converting to Christianity – but not because they rejected the idea of Jesus. In fact, he pointed out, most Celtic pagans – who believed in a host of gods with wild histories and who were constantly on the lookout for the places where the mundane and the supernatural met – found the idea of Christ to be completely plausible. To them, it seemed stranger not to believe in the possibility of something otherworldly.
In our modern world, though, embracing that sort of sensibility is harder.
Forget Jesus – most people look askance at the mere concept of miracles in general. Or angels. Or an afterlife. The idea that humans might be part of a bigger, broader story, that there is something epic and cosmic and important above and beyond us, has fallen into irrelevance beside the urgency of now. The scope of humanity’s interest has, in many ways, narrowed to ourselves and what exists immediately around us, and as a result, so has our belief. Pondering on the mysteries of life, the meaning of existence, and looking outside ourselves for answers has fallen out of fashion. In fact, the closest I see to it nowadays in the secular world is in the scientific realm, where the hunger for knowledge – underscored by a belief and hope that something always “lies beyond” and accompanied by a sense of wonder at the bigness of the universe – leaks through in every blog post or news release about Mars or Pluto.
I’m grateful I haven’t lost that. I’m grateful that believing parents and a life full of stories – replete with Egyptian, Greek, and Celtic myths, and the writings of Homer and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – prepared me to accept The True Story. But I am also conscious that others have not had my experience. I am very understanding of how my simple faith in a God who came to earth as a man, and who died and was raised, seems…odd. Naive. Backwards.
And that is why love matters. For people who were never raised with the capacity to see Jesus “as a fact,” for people to whom the very idea of anything bigger than us seems frankly sort of ludicrous or far-fetched, love matters. Senseless, radical acts of love and care – that are undeserved, that are replete with grace – open a window into the world that we know to be real. Because that love is otherworldly. It stems from a divine source.
Christlike love is not a human act. It does not have a human origin. And when it occurs, it lights up the world like a flash of lightning in a thunderstorm. For just a moment, the curtain draws back before skeptical eyes. Thoughts linger on the divine. And people who do not have much use for high-minded concerns like the afterlife or God or heaven or any of the things that they perceive as irrelevant will have a moment of direct contact with the Source of All Things.
Moments of deep love shatter illusion. Moments of deep love reveal God. In a world where it’s no longer de rigeur to give much thought to what exists beyond us, your simple act of love can strip away skepticism, denial, and indifference. So don’t give up. Please never give up.
God uses you to tell His great story, still.