Belief in God: What’s it Matter?
If we can’t answer why belief in God matters, there’s no reason to go any further than this one sentence. One of the first things I learned as a high school teacher is that whatever we read in class had to first be made relevant to my students. What’s the point of reading Shakespeare or Chaucer or other difficult things written hundreds of years ago if it has nothing to do with our lives today? Likewise, why should we care if God exists or not?
I find exploring the mysteries of God so engrossing that I often forget that many people simply don’t care. The more-recent parts of the Bible were written about two-thousand years ago, and the not-so-recent parts of the Bible were written about a thousand years before that. So, what does it have to do with us today? Does believing or disbelieving in God change anything in our day-to-day lives? What’s the point in wasting time thinking about God if you’re pretty certain he doesn’t exist?
I once tried to explain to someone I care about very much why I am a Christian. The person shut me down immediately, saying in effect, “I have no idea which religion is the correct one and I’m OK with not knowing.” The person’s abrupt defensiveness let me know to back off — an argument wouldn’t do any good — but what I wanted to reply was this:
You should care because, if true, it’s the most important thing in the world.
I’ll admit, that’s a pretty lofty statement, but to be honest, it’s bigger than that:
You should care because, if true, it’s the most important thing in the world, the universe, and all of creation, and it will affect you for all of eternity.
Still, who cares? How does that affect us today?
It’s fairly common knowledge that Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth died for our sins and by accepting this gift we will not experience spiritual death but live forever, but there are also many misconceptions about this teaching. Unfortunately, the way some Christians have handled this subject has led others to think that (1) fear of hell is the only way to convince someone to become a Christian and (2) Christians don’t care about the present world because they’re so focused on heaven.
My quick responses to those misconceptions would be (1) hell is an essential teaching of Christianity, but Jesus’ work is called “gospel” and gospel means good news. So, it appears, the writers of the New Testament understood a positive approach bears fruit more often than a negative one. And, (2) yes, a Christian has his or her eyes on eternity, but eternity begins now, and Jesus never tells us to retreat from this grungy, chaotic world but to be right in the midst of it.
So, forget hell and heaven for now. (We’ll discuss it at some other time.) Forget eternity – what does Christianity have to do with life today? What does knowing God have to do with life on this side of death?
I’m also not going to launch into some infomercial-like sales pitch on how following Jesus of Nazareth will improve your life. In fact, though I am certain it will improve your life in many ways, Jesus is very clear about how following him will lead to many hardships. (We’ll discuss this some other time too.)
What we are going to focus on here is your identity.
As a high school teacher of over thirteen years, one thing that continually grieves me is the amount of teens in our school that don’t have fathers in their lives. When I was in high school myself, I knew a girl like my students today. In our creative writing class, all of her writings she shared were laments over her father’s abandonment. Though she barely remembered the man, his absence had left a giant hole inside her. The grief in her words was clear as she struggled with trying to understand his absence.
Another friend — one I made in college — carried around a lot of anger towards his father. The father didn’t live far, but made no effort to be involved in his son’s life. My friend’s anger manifested in cutting humor about his father, and I could see there was a lot of pain, especially since his father had a new family. My friend carried these feelings of resentment and rejection into manhood, and they never lessened.
I know people now who are grown adults who yearn for repaired relationships with their parents. These are grown people — some with spouses or children of their own; some with successful careers; all with true friendships. Why do they yearn so much for a relationship with their parents, even after all this time?
The answer is obvious: it is destructive for children to not have relationships with their parents. In fact, it’s unnatural. If there is a God, he is our creator. If it is so important for a person – child or adult – to have a relationship with his or her parent, how much more important is it for us to have a relationship with our creator?
If God is our creator, he did not just pass on the genes that formed us as our parents did. He formed every microscopic part of us. He didn’t just create our bodies, but our personalities, our minds, and our souls. He knew us before the womb (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13). Not only did he create every aspect of us as individuals, but he also created every aspect of the planet that sustains our lives, as well as the whole universe our planet floats in. Our very identities are interwoven in God more so than even our parents.
Considering all this, how can it not be important to know God? If God exists, everything we are is because of God and connected to God. Our very lives and identities are defined by God. In fact, we could say there is nothing more unnatural than to not know God. Think of the hole left in people’s lives because of an absence of a parent. How much bigger is a hole left by not knowing God?
Someone may answer honestly, I don’t have a relationship with God and my life is fine. But has any person who reconnected with a parent, healed a broken relationship, and had a healthy relationship thereafter ever regretted it? A person who has been given up for adoption and grew up in a loving family may have no yearnings to find her birth mother. But if one day her birth mother found her, and their relationship grew into a friendship, would her life not be enriched? Further, I have a close relationship with my parents and my two sisters, but if I discovered I had a long, lost brother, would I say, “Who cares? I’m fine without him?” No, I’d want to meet him, learn about him, get to know him, and though I didn’t feel I needed him before, having him in my life would no doubt benefit me.
From the Christian perspective though, the problem isn’t that God, our heavenly father, has abandoned us, but that we have turned from him. Just as my friends mourned the lost relationships with their fathers, God mourns his lost relationships with his children.
NEXT: God: Who Cares? (Part 2) Give Me God, But Not Religion