Thanks to the power of Twitter, and my ever-running search for “campus crusade” I saw this tweet yesterday:
A terrifying description of the Campus Crusade for Christ Club: “We are here to help turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers.” —@gogocosmonaut
To which I responded:
you and I must have a different view of Christ. It’s terrifying that anyone would not want to be a Christ-centered laborer.
To which he responded:
If your life is centered on labor for someone you’ve never met and that has a chance of not being real… That’s terrifying.
At which point, I felt the 140 character-at-a-time limit on our perspectives needed lifting. Hence, this post. (to which I welcome a response either in the comments or on some other platform—even email)
I don’t know anything more about Nick Wood (@gogocosmonaut) than is revealed online, but from what I can tell about him through a brief perusal of his tweets, He and I share a lot of the same interests. This isn’t a blog post where I slam the guy. From his perspective, I’ve never met Jesus, and Jesus has a “chance of not being real.”
I could write a long defense of why I believe in God, but he’s heard it before, and probably has convincing arguments against even my best philosophical positions. Ontological proofs are not what he wants or needs. What he needs is to meet a Christian who actually finds their ultimate purpose, identity, and joy in Christ.
Because Nick is absolutely right. If I’ve never met someone, and don’t know anything about that person, and then proceed to devote my life to them, and call that devotion “labor,” I’ve either lost my mind, or worse. But, if I were to devote my life to someone like President Obama, or Billy Graham, or my pastor, or even my wife or child, and call that devotion “labor” it would lead to disastrous results as well.
Why? Because, at the end of the day, and at their most basic level, those men and women are flawed, as well. Ever met a parent who hinges all their hopes in life on the success/fame/competence of their child? More often than not those are crushing expectations for flawed people to live up to.
That’s what’s different about Jesus. The Jesus I meet in the Bible is perfect. Not swayed by human opinion, not selfish, not greedy, full of integrity, perfect. The type of guy that finds 100 bucks on the subway and gives it to lost and found. Whether or not the Bible is true (different topic for a different day), the picture you get from the Bible is of a Jesus who never stopped giving himself away. Devoting my life to a completely (and perfectly) selfless person would lead to me becoming the type of person who increasingly gives myself away.
There are countless examples in the history of Christianity of this principle coming true, from Mother Teresa to Jim Elliot to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Martin Luther (King and otherwise). People who saw it as a small thing to stand up against the Nazis, the bigotry of early 20th century America or 15th century Europe, and the horrors of poverty and disease.
If we have this view of Christ—selfless, sacrificial giver—there is nothing terrifying about an army of people walking behind Him and modeling their lives after him. This world could stand to have a few more Martin Luther Kings who stand up against tyranny, even when there’s nothing but death in it for them. Even if Jesus weren’t real, as Nick posits, to have a big group of people live like that imaginary man would actually benefit the world.
My fear is that many Christians in general and Campus Crusade staff and students in particular are not living in light of this Jesus, giving guys like Nick every reason to dismiss Christ without a second look.
I would beg folks like Nick to consider Christ. You’ll always find more than enough Christians to ridicule, and find fault with. After all, being a Christian means surrendering in the fight to be perfect, and admitting we can’t save ourselves. But look at Christ long enough, and you’ll find an amazing truth worth devoting your life to. In light of Christ’s perfect, selfless love, grace, and ultimate control over all the earth, it would be far more terrifying to center your life on fleeting counterfeits like self-actualization, money, sex, fame, power, or control.