We all live our lives according to a kind of script, as though a certain set of answers to life’s deepest questions is true. So what about the Christian story, then? What story does Jesus invite us to believe?
The Christian story begins with God, the eternal spring of love and life, bringing all things into existence. Our universe is no accident, it was designed for a purpose. Bringing order from the chaotic elements of creation, and cultivating a small garden on our wild planet, God uniquely appoints human beings to bear his image. According to the Bible, we were created for good: to love God and love others. Our first parents Adam and Eve were given the role of cultivating the planet God had provided and protecting it from evil, that through them would come the new creation.
Our experience now, though, tells a different story. Our deepest intuitions about the world, that something is terribly wrong, they bear witness to the reality that this paradise has been lost, and so the Christian story spells out what happened. That rather than trusting God’s wisdom and good design, living the life of love for which we were created, instead we doubted God’s character and rejected God’s rule. As the representative of humanity, Adam failed in the garden, and was removed from it. It’s what Christians call sin. Thinking we could define good and evil on our own terms, humanity rebelled against God, and in so doing crashed against the moral fabric of God’s universe. We became damaged by evil, committed to evil, and deserving of God’s judgment.
Our desires, distorted. Our relationships, fractured. And our harmony with the environment, gone. We became susceptible to sickness, suffering, decay and ultimately death.
And so God sets in motion His plan to rescue us. As part of that plan, Israel was chosen by God to be the conduit through which he would bless the world. Through their story God prepares us for the heart of his plan: the coming of Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth is God the eternal Son stepping onto the stage of human history, descending into our darkness to save us and light the way back to God.
As the invisible God made visible, Jesus wept with those who were mourning; he confronted the evil powers; and he went about setting things right—restoring sight to the blind, music to the deaf, and dancing to the lame. Jesus’ whole life was one continual sermon, putting flesh on his words as he opened people’s eyes to the truth about who God really is. And looking at Jesus we see everything God created us to be, exposing our shadow side and how far we fall short.
And at the very heart of the Christian story, at the crescendo of the biographies about Jesus, we find a blood-stained cross and empty tomb.
God faced a dilemma: how can a holy and loving God live again with an unholy and rebellious people?
Well the cross and the empty tomb are Heaven’s answer.
On the cross Jesus took our sins upon himself and embraced our death sentence, offering up his life as an act of atonement, condemning evil while securing forgiveness to all who believe in Him. He who knew no sin, became sin, absorbing the righteous wrath of God, and in exchange granting us His righteousness.
He defeated death through his resurrection, and secured our future destiny, promising eternal life to all who believe in him, and a world free from sickness and suffering, decay and death. He is like another Adam, the last Adam, representing all his people, so that whoever is in him would be free and become God’s new creations.
This free gift of God’s grace is what Christians have always carried. Animated by God’s Holy Spirit, we are set free to become again who we were created to be. The followers of Jesus have scattered around the globe, sent together to make disciples of Jesus, people who trust in him and are being transformed to become more and more like him.
And soon, Jesus promises to return to set everything right. The Christian story is one anchored in hope, that one day evil will finally be wiped away, along with our tears, as Jesus comes to restore justice through judgment, and usher in the dawn of God’s eternal world where heaven and earth have come together. A lot like the beginning in the garden, God’s people will be with Him in His place once again, but this time in the new creation, it and we will never again see corruption.
Love. Purpose. Freedom. Hope.
This is the Christian story, what Christians believe.
And it’s a story worth believing.