What is the meaning of life?
You know this is an important question, and you probably have a correct answer.
But I think we need more.
I think we need something that helps us grow a correct answer to an answer that actually works — one that isn’t fuzzy and ideal, but concrete and practical. We need an answer that we can rally around and say, “I want this, no matter what.” I explain more in a recent article, but in short, what I mean is that we need a vision for life that is both ultimate and comprehensive. It must be ultimate enough to serve no greater end, and then comprehensive enough to account for the highs and lows of real circumstances, especially suffering.
In a phrase, I think the meaning of life goes like this:
The meaning of life is to experience and show Jesus as the supreme satisfaction of our souls.
Meaning and Mission
My question now is how this fits in with the mission of Cities Church. What does this look like in the context of discipleship? In particular, what does the meaning of life have to do with us telling our friends about Jesus?
At the very least, I think a whatever-it-takes vision for life undercuts the fears that commonly keep us from talking about Jesus.
If the point is to experience and show that Jesus is the supreme satisfaction of our souls then sometimes that will involve bearing with a little awkwardness, or maybe getting rudely shut down (or sometimes, in some parts of the world, getting your head cut off). The point is that we don’t have to avoid these things because sometimes that is exactly what we are supposed to endure. Sometimes it’s our endurance that actually realizes our meaning. Sometimes it’s our endurance — absorbing the rejection, feeling the loss — that makes us experience and show that Jesus is our greatest treasure.
Assume Instead of Avoid
But we tend to avoid every possibility of cost like it’s the plague. This is where I feel so at odds with the apostle Paul. He said that he endures anything for the sake of the gospel, but we tend to avoid anything that might be difficult (see 1 Corinthians 9).
Speaking way too personally here, and to be straight up, I think one of our biggest deterrents in being more outspoken about Jesus is that we have a skewed view of the risk. We (cough, I) have such an aversion to discomfort that we’ve mistakenly suspected that stepping out and talking about Jesus is going to go badly for us. It’s hard enough, and anyway, they’re going to think I’m a dork. That’s one excuse. What’s yours?
Whatever it is, like my own, it doesn’t add up with the real meaning of life. And the rationale behind the excuse can only be perpetuated when we don’t connect the dots to what life is all about.
Instead of avoiding the possibility of cost, we should assume that God will call us to cost in order that we experience and show that Jesus is the supreme satisfaction of our souls.
And that might mean that this week you endure:
one awkward moment when you tell your co-worker that the highlight of your Saturday was something you meditated on in the Bible
one shut-down response when you invited your friend at the gym to a church service
one nasty look when you asked the bartender if there is anything you could pray for him about
But, you know what? It might mean that you don’t have to endure any of those.
It might mean that your co-worker is intrigued that you find help in such an ancient text. Your friend at the gym might wholeheartedly agree to come this Sunday. The bartender might pour out his soul about a relationship crisis he’s going through. Every scenario might go wonderfully, but we’ll never know if we’re too freaked out by the possible cost — which itself, as we’ve seen, is part of the wonderful.
Go for the Cost
In fact, let me suggest an idea. This comes from my good friend, Marshall Segal, and the good ministry he is leading among millennials at BBC’s north campus. He has envisioned the web of small groups under his care to “go for the closed door.” In other words, talk about Jesus and be yourself until you get [enter # here] people to shut you down.
For us, let’s say: this week, let’s be outspoken about Jesus until it costs us three times.
Seriously, look for three costs — an awkward moment, a shut down, a nasty look, whatever. Determine to speak up and reach out in love until it costs you three times.
If we do this, first, I think we’ll be surprised by the positive responses; and second, I think we’ll find that the costs are really not that costly. Let’s go.
With you, worshiping Jesus, serving one another, and seeking the good of the Cities,