Because business is an important part of life and our well-being, I think and write a lot about business.
Because life is more than just business, periodically, I write about other topics.
This post is about Christmas. So if you are only interested in business writings, feel free to skip this one.
At Christmas, work usually slows down and with the end of one year and the beginning of another, it’s a great time for reflection.
Instead of the normal thinking about resolutions for the new year, I offer two questions worth pondering.
Now these questions are not to be conquered, they are to be savored – contemplated over a long period of time and discussed with friends. People all over the world have been trying to answer these questions for thousands of years.
I am a pragmatic, practical guy. You only have to look at my wardrobe to see that – much to the dismay of my kids.
But I have always been fascinated by important ideas. Years ago, a speaker defined philosophy for me. He said philosophy answers two questions:
- What is real?
- What does it mean to live a good life?
Not everybody needs or wants to answer questions like these. But for some of us, beginning to answer these questions helps us make the most of life, providing us with more meaning and direction.
I find myself coming back to these questions time and time again. They help me think through the importance of marriage and family, work, owning a business, relationships in business, and relationships with friends. They also help me ponder the claims of Jesus Christ and how I should engage with him.
Life is really busy. Reflecting on these questions helps me make sure I am not wasting my time.
In the spirit of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, I thought I would review some of Jesus’ teachings that reflect how he would answer these questions.
Here are seven quotes:
Satisfaction/Fulfillment. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Having just fed more than 5000 hungry people, Jesus encourages them to think about satisfying their spiritual hunger and thirst, claiming that he can satisfy now and forever – clearly a bold claim. (John 6)
Direction. “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Jesus is speaking to Pharisees, Jewish religious leaders in his day. Because they are highly educated, much more so than Jesus, he is insulting them. He tells them that they cannot see, that they do not know much about the things of God. But he sees and he knows. Ouch! Not exactly a nice guy. (John 8)
Protection. “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” This metaphor does not work well for most of us because we do not raise sheep or know people who do. Sheep are often placed in a pen at night to protect them from danger. The shepherd stands at the gate or door to the pen and inspects them and cares for their needs as they enter the pen for the evening. In the morning, he releases them to the pasture to feed. In this metaphor, the sheep represent people. (John 10)
Care. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.” Continuing the sheep metaphor, Jesus is predicting his death for the benefit of the sheep – us. (John 10)
Eternal Life. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus is speaking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who had died four days prior and had been placed in a tomb. Even though he had been dead four days, Jesus resuscitated Lazarus to prove the truth of this statement. What a story! Can you imagine the talk in that town? (John 11)
Relationship. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” The meaning of this metaphor is not obvious to most of us since we do not own or work in vineyards. The vinedresser (God, the Father) is the one who prunes, trains and cultivates vines. The vine (Jesus, God’s son) is the structure and source of nutrients for the branches (people who believe in Jesus) which produce the fruit (good deeds, personal growth). This verse explains the how the three are connected in relationship to accomplish God’s plans. (John 15)
Exclusivity. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus is explaining his preparation of heaven for the disciples (and others). This verse is notorious because of the exclusivity that Jesus claims here. There is no wiggle room in his statement. (John 14)
How would you summarize Jesus’ statements as an answer to the question “What is real?”
Here’s my summary:
There is a lot more going on than what we can know through our five senses. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is essential. Jesus provides for his people. Jesus wants an intimate relationship with his people. Jesus wasn’t “nice” the way most of us define nice; he was more “in your face.” He cared more about their future than their feelings. He wanted them to know what is real.
Now for the second question: “What does it mean to live a good life?”
This question is tough. We get some clues from Jesus’ quotes above. Certainly, pondering the implications of what is real would be part of it.
The most relevant answers from the teachings above are the ones dealing with exclusivity and relationship.
The quote related to exclusivity is difficult for many Americans to accept. If Jesus is God, as he says he is, then he gets to make the rules. We think more in terms of majority rules or everyone gets to make his or her own rules.
The quote related to relationship is fascinating. Imagine an all-powerful God wanting an intimate relationship with each one of us. Of course, there is much more that could be said about how to pursue that relationship, but I will save that topic for another time.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this perspective on Christmas. I hope you enjoy the time with friends and family.
When some people answer the question, what is real in relation to Jesus, they say he was a good, moral teacher.
Nonsense, said C.S. Lewis, a professor at Oxford, a popular author, and for many years, an atheist.
Lewis was searching for answers to the question, what is real. Here’s an excerpt from his book, Mere Christianity, where he dismisses this view. His reasoning is fascinating.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.“
Many people have found great value in this book – answering the two questions of philosophy. If you want, you can order it here.