Whenever I talk about Christianity and the issues, passions and positions that so many Christians hold, someone inevitably lobs the “Why do you bother? What you are doing doesn’t make any difference!” argument into the mix. This comes both from people of faith who have been burned-out by living what feels like a life of futility as well as from those who are committed to work against the kinds of change that many Christians hope to see.
Believe me, there are times when I wonder the same thing . . .
- Who cares what the Presbyterian Church (USA) says about immigration?
- Why bother signing a petition on gun violence?
- Why boycott anything?
- And don’t get me started on issues of racism, poverty and economic justice.
Seriously, why bother? What we do, doesn’t do anything, anyway. What a bunch of losers!
At a certain level, the question of effectiveness is a valid one, but when it comes right down to it, I do not enter into these seemingly fruitless endeavors only to find success. Of course when facing some of the world’s messed up situations that need to change, success is fulfilling, perseverance is important and stewardship of resources vital, but for many Christians, we do not live and express our faith solely so we can get something in return. Instead, by living our faith in response to what and who God has been in our lives, we return thanks to God . . . even if/when those expressions don’t always lead to an immediate reward, success or victory.
Not just about semantics of faith, the perspective with one sees blessings, rewards and gifts from God greatly determines one’s perspective on faith. On one hand there are some who believe in what is often called the “property gospel” in that, if you are faithful, God will reward you. This is a very simplistic read, but basically you are faithful in order to earn God’s blessings of spirit and material prosperity. And yes, there are many passages in the Bible that are used to support this perspective, Joshua 1:8 for example:
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
And then there are those, like myself, who understand blessings and gifts from God as something completely unearned or undeserved, so in response to God’s blessings in life: material, physical and spiritual, we live faithfully. We express love in the world, because of the love that God has shown us and not in order to earn it. There are also many passages that support the idea of grace freely given by God, such as Romans 5:1-2:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Now keep in mind that there is much wrapped into all of this and we could go on and on and on: understanding of faith itself, the role of salvation, the nature of Jesus Christ, how we measure success, etc. but in case you were wondering why some of us Christian losers bother doing stuff that seems like a waste of time, now you know.