Years ago, when I was a young, naïve Christian teenager, I found myself in a lengthy discussion about faith with a non-Christian classmate. This particular classmate, who eventually became a very good friend, asked a lot of challenging questions about God, Jesus, and the Christian faith. By the end of the conversation, I came to the conclusion that he just thought too much to believe in the Christian faith.
Now the adult me asks, “Really? He THOUGHT too much?”
When I take an honest look at the Christian faith, the faith into which I was born and the faith into which I am now raising my children, there is an understanding that yes, it is a religious faith that takes a tremendous amount of belief. After all, to be a Christian is to believe that the historical man Jesus, a man revered by individuals from many different religious faiths, was not just a real man who lived and breathed and walked on earth, but God himself.
For some, just believing that God exists is a stretch, and I get that—I really do. I also get how hard it is to add to that belief by saying that a historical figure is God in human form. After all, can’t Christians just be happy believing Jesus was a good, wise man who said good things and taught us how to love each other and live our best possible life?
Because I know a lot of good people.
I know a lot of wise people.
I know a lot of smart people.
And they may be really good people to know and have as friends, but I believe we humans need so much more.
After years of friendships and relationships with people of different faiths, I have matured in my understanding that thinking too much isn’t the problem. The problem is in starting with the wrong questions and sometimes in seeking the wrong answers. As a teenager, I didn’t know how to answer the questions I was asked because for the first time, I needed to challenge my own beliefs and search for hard answers.
For an individual of any faith, it is a scary odyssey because one never knows where they will end up. As an academic who loves reading almost anything and who is hungry for knowledge, it is also a daunting task. It is a task that has taken me through the Bible, Christian writers of different denominations, and non-Christian writers who challenge my view of the world, forcing me to question and defend beliefs I have accepted as true for my entire life. And twenty years later I’m back where I started, my feet firmly planted in the Christian faith, but this time with battle scars affirming my belief in Jesus Christ as God.
I know some people look at Christians as a group of gullible simpletons willing to believe in fairy tales, but some of the smartest, most well-read people I know are Christians, and yes, they believe that Jesus is God. Yes, they believe the Bible. And yes, they also believe in science and history.
Many of my fellow Christians don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity because they are willing to ignore everything else that they know and everything else that they have read. They believe it because to not believe it is to deny the power of God and the importance of God coming down to earth to save a world full of lost people, from themselves.
Jesus left the glory of heaven to become a man. He experienced the physical, emotional, and mental pains of humanity before he sacrificed himself on a cross. I can experience the struggles of my own life and look at Jesus and know that he gets it. I don’t just have his sympathy, I have his empathy.
Jesus didn’t just show us how to live and love, he showed us just how broken we are. He hung out with the “sinners” because they were the ones most aware of their brokenness. Unlike the church leaders of the day, they were not looking for a political savior and affirmation that they were doing the right thing, but they longed for someone who would rescue them from themselves. And Jesus understood that brokenness because he also suffered intense emotional and physical pain. He listened to the pain of those around him, healing the bodies and souls of those who reached out to him for help.
But all of that is only significant if Jesus is God. All of that only matters if Jesus is something greater than my humanity. And all of that only matters for me if I believe it.
And I don’t believe that makes me simple-minded at all.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on God becoming human in Jesus, you can find those over here.