18 Aug Does Life Have Meaning?
Who am I? Why am I here? What gives life meaning? What is my purpose? These are the sorts of existential questions that sooner or later, we all ask. We want to know that our life has meaning, that it makes a difference that we have spent time on this planet, that there is something of significance that transcends the very mundane business of chores, work and the repetitive actions that fill our days.
Existential questions are a good thing. They lead us to hit the “pause” button so that we can reflect, listen and look for the golden threads woven throughout our lives. Occasionally, we need to ask the “big questions” inside the church as well. Who are we? Why are we here? What gives our life together meaning? What is our purpose?
Fortunately, we already have some language that gives voice to these questions. They are called “The Great Ends of the Church.” The great ends of the Church are:
- the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
- the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
- the maintenance of divine worship;
- the preservation of the truth;
- the promotion of social righteousness; and
- the exhibition of the Kingdom of God to the world.
These are beautifully articulated ideals of who and what we are called to be. Will any church ever “achieve” all these aims? No. Will we fall short time and time again? Absolutely. Does that mean we should stop trying? No, no, no.
It’s important to note that these Great Ends emphasize relationship. They aim to help us live better together—with God, with one another and with ourselves. When the Great Ends are divorced from relationship, bad things happen: rather than building up community, we devolve into “us versus them”; rather than pursuing righteousness and justice, religion becomes another excuse for protecting the supremacy of money, power and the status quo. “Truth” becomes a weapon rather than a means of reflection and mutual discovery.
Church, we must strive to do better. To the degree that we distort and misrepresent God in our abuse of the Great Ends, we must repent. Instead of looking “out there” for the problem, it is time to do some serious and painful soul-searching. How is our proclamation of the Gospel really “Good News” for the people who hear it? How are we sheltering and nurturing all the peoples of the Earth, each and every one of them created in God’s image? Are we truly offering divine worship or are we settling for entertainment? Are we experiencing the liberation that comes when truth is the hallmark of our lives? Do we really care about justice and if so, how are we working for justice each day? Does the world see the Kingdom of God when they examine our lives?
Hard questions, yes, but questions we must ask and honestly answer. And where we fall short, as we inevitably will, let us act with courage and faith, always trusting in God’s grace to be at work in us until we become what we proclaim.
Yours for the Kingdom,