Last week I began a four-part sermon series and in Part 1, I shared how all people from diverse cultures throughout history believed in something beyond themselves, beyond the here and now, beyond this material world. The world’s religions don’t agree in their perception or understanding of the Divine or on what is ultimate reality, but as diverse as history’s people and cultures were, they all agree that there is something more than the secular, materialist worldview of the here and now. There is something greater than a secular worldview that minimizes and often ignores religious belief while it does not offer a complete picture of our entire reality.
In part 2 of this sermon series of “Why Believe and What to Believe?” I want to turn to another commonality among the world’s religions and the experiences of all peoples throughout every culture. Throughout history we have seen how all humanity strive to discover answers to the existential questions about the world we live in, about our experiences in life, and what is ultimate reality.
We humans are all created in the image and likeness of God and one of the divine characteristics we possess is our ability to reason and think. Unlike other animals in creation, we have an innate desire and passion to understand who we are, why we exist, and what this temporary life is all about? Where do we find answers to these foundational questions about life? What sources can help us wrestle with these existential issues?
It was precisely this desire to think and reason and know as well as to experience the Transcendent that led humanity to think beyond itself and to offer answers to these questions, to create a worldview that teaches us who we are and where we come from, and to show us the best way to live in this world. That’s the foundation for religious belief.
Think about some of these questions and ask yourself where you will find answers to such questions in today’s secular, materialistic society?
- What is the nature of the world and humanity?
- What is our purpose or meaning of life during our brief existence here on earth?
- How do we comprehend an existence of merely 50, 80 or 100 years?
- What acts as the source of our greatest joys and bliss in life?
- How do we understand the problem of suffering and pain?
- What is the foundation of morality and from where comes our understanding of ‘good’ and ‘evil?’
- How do we understand death and what happens after death?
Throughout history, we see humanity wrestling with these questions and seeking to find satisfactory answers. These questions have given birth to the world’s religions. Today, however, many people are turning away from the answers that religion offers and are seeking answers solely from science, philosophy and psychology. Yet these fields of study, as much as they can teach us, don’t offer a complete picture of reality and thus, their answers will leave us unsatisfied in our thirst to understand and learn how to live and find the most fulfilling meaning and purpose in life.
Today, I want to focus on just one of the specific questions: “What is our purpose and the meaning of life during our brief existence here on earth? Why are we here and how are we to live during this short life?”
For many people, they may try to answer this question by asking other questions such as
- What do I want in life?
- What should I be?
- What should I do with my life?
- What are my goals, my dreams, my desires?
The problem with these questions is that they are all egocentric – they begin with I, ME, MY.
What our Christian Faith teaches is that “Life does not begin with ME or YOU!” Life is about something greater than any individual or any egocentric desire. Life is about a God who created each one of us in the palm of His hand, created each of us in His image and likeness, instilled in us the Breath of Life, and then granted us the greatest gift and experience of life – LOVE. Thus, here is the answer to our question of “What is our purpose and meaning of life and why are we here?” Love is the ultimate purpose of life – to love and to be loved. We exist here on earth to experience and to share LOVE.
Jesus Christ summarized this purpose when He highlighted the two greatest commandments: To love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. We were created out of a Trinity of Love; we are deeply and unconditionally loved by our Creator; and we are called to share this divine love with all the world. We need to NOT FOCUS ON OURSELVES and our own desires BUT TO FOCUS ON OUR CREATOR, on the One who made us and understands us better than ourselves!
God existed before the world was created, before you and I or any other living entity ever existed. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Lord Almighty.” God, the Source of Love, is the beginning of everything! Therefore, if we want to discover what is the nature of the world and life, as well as what is the purpose of life, we begin in Him, not with ourselves; when we begin with the Creator we discover what true, divine LOVE is.
The ultimate purpose of life reveals to us who love is, what the Source of love is, how our identity is one of love and how when we realize who we are, we will naturally allow this innate, divine love to overflow from us to other people.
Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and to give it to you abundantly” (John 10:10). He was not referring to an abundant material life or a life solely of personal happiness. An abundant life is a life with an abundance of the fruit of love – joy, peace, hope, mercy and grace. When we discover this purpose of love, we discover deep and existential contentment and become joyful in all circumstances.
Let me conclude with these words from Holy Scripture:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even if she may forget you, I will never forget you. See, I have carved you in the palm of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16)
“I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.” (Isaiah 44:2)
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” (Ephesians 1:11 )
Why believe and what should we believe? Well, our Faith offers answers to the existential questions of life, and one of the most important questions any of us can ever ask is “What is the nature of the world and humanity and why do we exist? What is the purpose of life?”
We discover the ultimate meaning and purpose of life when we make our Creator the reference point. And this Creator is Divine Love who created us out of love, who loves us unconditionally, and who calls us to share His love to the world around us.