“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Phi 2:3-5)
If we had to create a shorthand for these verses, we could come up with something like „Service before self”. If this wasn’t historically inaccurate I’d suggest the apostle Paul was Rotarian. Perhaps he learned it from the One, whom He served. It seems that we could trace the roots of Rotary Club back by almost two millennia.
Today I was invited to speak to you because it is Easter week and as was told that you have this tradition to invite ‘a minister of religion’ to give a different perspective on this time of year.
As this is Holy week and we are heading towards Easter, I can use a chance to clear this confusion, for I’m not a minister of religion. I know this is some kind of generic title, but this is really confusing. For Christianity is not a religion. In language of logic you can say that this is a confusion of categories. Let me explain.
There are universal phenomena in humanity. Like notion that there is something higher, some kind of ultimate being. That’s why in all languages [!] there is a word ‘god’.
Or this feeling that this life is not all that there is. We literary feel it in our hearts. Like babies in womb feel that there is something else out there. Something big and loving? Sure, our bodies wear out, but our self-consciousness remains the same. Besides, there is this universal acknowledgment about our accountability.
This voice that speaks inside us, sometimes accusing us, sometimes excusing. It is not our voice, far from it, for it often speaks against what our hearths desire.
I had a friend. He was a big scale investor. He lived in Brussels. But according to his passport he was Italian. His name was Mr Daniel Israel. And he looked like … Go figure these days. He was not what we would call a religious person at all.
But, once when we had a dinner at a nice restaurant, and talked about different things, he said that he kind of knows, that he is quite sure that at the end of our life, we all will have to give an account of how we have lived.
These are universal phenomena, knowledge of God, feeling of eternity in our hearts, dealing with this ultimate accountability on daily bases. Everyone knows about them, everyone have had these experiences.
You see, religion is when people take these experiences and try to find a way how to deal with them. Some kind of principles, which would help us to feel better. Which would guide our lives so that we know we are decent people.
You can even cut the concept of god out of picture, but these phenomena will remain and you will have to deal with them. Everyone does. More consciously, or less consciously. This is what you can properly call religion. Human attempts to deal with these existential experiences.
Why did I say that I’m not a minister of religion? For I’m not interested in human ideas about how to deal with these realities. There are so many interesting things to do in this world, why to waste your time on what others believe is a good way to live.
Ok, I admit, I’m partly interested, but this is not what defines what I do. I’ll tell you what is the difference between Christianity and all the religions or ideologies of the world.
Christian worldview, the way we understand this world, the way we answer to the big questions of our lives, – who we are, what is this world, why are we here, what is wrong with this world, how can it be fixed, is not based on human ideas. It is based on events.
Christian worldview is based on events. On historical events! Entire Bible consists of the testimonies of eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses. Historical records are not a religion. It is about the world where we live. About what happened in past, in our reality.
All religions and ideologies teach you how to deal with these universal phenomena of human experience. Contrary to them, Christianity simple tells you what God has done in our history.
May be it is not that simple, for the message to tell is both incredibly important and incredibly unbelievable for human minds. It is not something we can sit down at breakfast, discuss and conclude, yes! sounds reasonable, I’ll take it. Not at all. And I can’t change your minds. I can only deliver you the message.
It is the strangest message ever. I could even use words – the most foolish message ever. That God, who created and still preserves entire Universe, who created us in His image and likeness, came into this world and lived as one of us, as man Jesus Christ, did unbelievable things, died on the cross and then rouse again. All of this before the eyes of hundreds and thousands of eyewitnesses.
God, became man. Died, and rouse again. Who could believe this? The better you know history, the stranger seems this message. Everything in this message was wrong if you wanted to promote it in 1stcentury Roman empire. No one would believe it…
… unless it really happen. And if this really happened, then we all have answers to life’s biggest questions, then we have fulfilment to the deepest desires of our hearts.
Then this one, this something higher has identified Himself, He has revealed what is His attitude to us. To you. That He loves you, one of His tiny creatures, created in His image, and so important to Him that He is willing to pour out Himself fully for you.
Then your desire for eternity is not just explained but also fulfilled. Eternity is given to you as precious gift. Not just eternity, but eternity in the presence of your Creator, this unbelievable being, who has done all these incomprehensible things.
Then our consciences can rest in peace. Then there is no reason to worry – am I good enough? Have I been good enough? For none of us are. God accepts you not because you deserve it, but in spite of the fact that you don’t deserve it. It is His gift to you, forgiveness and acceptance. Whatever you are, whatever you have done.
When you here this message, it gives you hope that surpasses all that we can imagine. This hope transformed the world. This hope created Western culture as we know it today, with all the blessings we enjoy today – technology, education, medicine, social welfare systems, science, human rights, etc.
Thanks to this hope today there are clubs like Rotary, and compassion, mercy, generosity and service are considered virtues. It is not the case in other cultures. Don’t trust me, check it yourself. Entire Wester culture is a child of this hope. This hope has created for us circumstances where we can give hope to others.
If God indeed is so affectionate about you, then you can be the best Rotarians ever. ‘Service before self.’ He takes care of you, here and in eternity, you can take care of others. Only with this hope, your motto actually make sense.
You see, the whole point of the Christian church is to testify about these events. For this is what Jesus commanded after His resurrection. He sent His disciple, and, please, read the New Testament, what did they do? Witnessed what they have experienced. Gave their testimonies about what had happened.
They appointed next generation of disciples, they again next, and next and after almost two millennia I stand before you to share the same testimony. That’s why I agreed to come here today. To tell you, to remind you what the Son of God Jesus Christ has done for you. For each of you. To extend Jesus invitation, – come and see that the Lord is good. And … He is risen.
He is risen, indeed.